January 28, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by Pastor Doug Tritton of Symphony Church in Boston, was first posted on June 18, 2015. Doug is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Grace Already”

1 Kings 6:11-14: 

Now the word of the Lord came to Solomon, “Concerning this house that you are building, if you will walk in my statutes and obey my rules and keep all my commandments and walk in them, then I will establish my word with you, which I spoke to David your father. And I will dwell among the children of Israel and will not forsake my people Israel.” So Solomon built the house and finished it.

When I read this passage while writing this devotional, I thought about skipping it. I thought to myself, this does not really show grace. This passage seems to imply that we need to obey God before He comes to us, that we need to earn His presence. But as I reflected on this, I realized, that is certainly not the case.

God’s grace was already at work. He was the one who rescued Israel from Egypt and brought them to the Promised Land. He protected them from invaders during the time of the Judges and gave them a king when they asked for one.  God was always giving and giving towards the people of Israel.

So by the time God asks Solomon to follow His statutes, God had already given grace upon grace to the people of Israel. What really is happening here is that God’s grace had opened up a way for His people to know Him more, through obedience. 

When we obey God, we know Him better because obedience opens our heart to Him more. God has already shown grace; we see that on the cross.  But in response to that grace, we obey and thus we come to know God even better. His presence becomes sweeter, and our intimacy with Him grows.

Obedience should not be seen as a chore; rather, it’s a means to know God more. God gives us grace, over and over and over again. How will you respond to that grace?

Prayer: Lord, thank You for giving grace. Who am I to deserve that grace You displayed on the cross? Yet still You died for me. May my heart yearn to know You more because of what You have done for me. May my heart be willing to obey You in response to what You have done for me. You gave it all for me; help me to now give my life to You.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 31


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 John 5:3-4: For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

Questions to Consider

  1. How do we show our love for God?
  2. Why will God’s commands not be burdensome?
  3. What is the role of faith in this?

Notes

  1. Love for God is shown through obedience to Him. We do not blindly follow God’s commands, but rather follow them as overflow of our love for God. When we love someone, we do anything to please that person. We can please God by following Him and obeying His commands.
  2. God’s commands will not be burdensome because through Christ, we overcome the world! It is God who works in us to obey through the power of the Holy Spirit who comes to us when we are born anew. Praise God that He is the one working through us!
  3. It all starts with faith! Faith is what leads to the new birth which brings the Holy Spirit who enables us to overcome the world. If we try to obey God without faith, we are deluding ourselves. Our ability to follow God is 100% dependent on the faith we have in Christ. 

Evening Reflection

Take time to repent for any ways in which you have not obeyed God. Think through things God may have asked you to do that you did not do. Pray for the faith to obey, even if it may seem costly. Pray for strength to live a life of obedience to God.

January 27, Wednesday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Matt Ro who formerly pastored Journey Church in Atlanta, was originally posted on May 22, 2013.  Matt is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BS) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning  

Satisfying our Hunger and Thirst

Psalm 63:1 (ESV)

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Are you hungry?  Are you thirsty?  What will satisfy your hunger and thirst? The following is how David dealt with it, when he felt utterly abandoned.  

Psalm 63 indicates that it was written when David was in the desert of Judah.  He was either fleeing from King Saul or from his son Absalom.  Probably that latter since he refers to himself in v. 11 as the king (but he was not yet king when he was fleeing from Saul).  

Separated from God’s sanctuary in Jerusalem, David is longing for the presence of God.  Verse 1 is the heartbeat of our relationship with God.  David sees himself as thirsting for God as a man might thirst in the desert where there is no water.  C.S. Lewis wrote this regarding his reflection of Psalm 63: “These poets knew far less reason than we for loving God.  They did not know that he offered them eternal joy; still less that he would die to win it for them.  Yet, they express a longing for him, for His mere presence.  They long to live all their days in the temple.  Their longing to go up to Jerusalem and appear before the presence of God is like a physical thirst.  Lacking that encounter with him, their souls are parched like a waterless countryside.”

This hunger for God must be found today.  It isn’t the things that we do for God, but the hunger for God that matters the most.  Are we seeking satisfaction in other things?  Are we cultivating His presence?  There is no better way to start each day than by earnestly seeking god’s face through personal Bible Study, meditation, and prayer.

Prayer:  Father, fill my heart with a longing for You.  It is Your presence that I hunger for.  Forgive me for seeking my relief for hunger in the things that do not satisfy.  I pledge today to pursue You and Your will through Your word.  I want to rest in Your presence and grace.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Genesis 30


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 5:1-2(ESV): Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the command in v. 1?  What do you think that means?
  2. What aspect of “walking in love” does Paul point us towards in v. 2? Or, in what ways did Christ walk in love?
  3. This passage in Ephesians calls us to follow Christ’s example and walk in love, but it is important to note that he begins by saying “as beloved children.”  Spend five minutes today thinking how much God loves you (ask Him for a revelation of how much He enjoys you) and see if it does not awaken and unlock your heart to love Him more. 

Notes

  1. Paul bluntly tells us that we must be imitators of God.  The word for imitators in Greek means to mimic.  He is telling us to follow the pattern or example of God.  A simple translation would be “be godlike.”  That doesn’t mean we can be God.  Only He has attributes reserved for Himself.  There can be only one God.  But to be godlike means to reflect Him in our lives.  To be godly is the means to be godlike.  What will you be like if you are godlike?  Is there strength that you need to live out?  Is there a change in the object of happiness that you need to seek?  Will we be wise and kind?  
  2. Through all the works of God, there is one main focus: He redeems.  To walk in love as Christ loved us means that we love sacrificially and redemptively.  We must be willing to love in a way that reflects Christ’s love for us.  This means that if we are to be godly, we must be selfless and consider the needs of others even above our own needs.  It is through this sacrificial love that the world will be attracted to Christ.  Ask yourself today, “Am I walking in love towards others as Christ walked in love for me?”  That is the greatest way that we can godly, or to be imitators of God.  We must learn to live to the fullest of humanity, to learn how to love, to heal, and to restore and bring together things that are scattered and fragmented.  
  3. The greatest two commandments found in Matthew 22:37-40 (love God with all heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor) are intrinsically tied. It is only as we gain a revelation of the depth of His love, that we are able to truly walk in the way of love, loving God, and loving others. 

Evening Reflection

Prayer:  Father, help me to be godly.  Teach me to the wonder and satisfaction of godlikeness.  May this desire for godlikeness begin with an understanding of your love for me and then spill out to love towards others.  Amen.

January 26, Tuesday

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Hooray to Social Justice but Whose Justice?”

Ecclesiastes 4:1-3 (ESV)

Again I saw all the oppressions that are done under the sun. And behold, the tears of the oppressed, and they had no one to comfort them! On the side of their oppressors there was power, and there was no one to comfort them. 2 And I thought the dead who are already dead more fortunate than the living who are still alive. 3 But better than both is he who has not yet been and has not seen the evil deeds that are done under the sun. 

In the last decade, there has been a growing awareness and concern about matters of social justice.  Many people assume that this is a positive trend, a sign that humanity is progressing into a kinder and gentler world.  Yet, the book of Ecclesiastes presents a far more realistic picture of the injustice that is a part of our daily existence: Oppression is something that is deeply embedded into the very power structure of our societies and their governments.  Solomon who had the resources of an entire nation at his disposal saw very little hope in seeing a just world in his lifetime.  In the face of his own helplessness, he was left with two emotional responses to the situation: sorrow for the oppressed, and indignation towards their oppressors.  

Solomon reminds us of our responsibility to do what is within our power to help the victims of injustice, but also to realize that the ultimate source of comfort comes from the hand of God; that He will one day wipe away all our tears.   

Today, there are many models and paradigms of social justice that are being taught in our universities and by secular sociologists.  And many of us think that any model of social justice that alleviates the pain and the suffering of individuals is good, whether it is secular, Christian, Buddhist, etc.  But is important for us to consider that the only valid model of social justice is one that is centered around the teachings of Christ.  A good starting point is to understand that our righteous acts are but filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6).   

Our concern for the poor and everything that we do for the underprivileged and the oppressed does not merit any sort of right standing before God or men.  This is vitally important because I have met many people (Christians and non-Christians) who are caught up in the self-deception that all their good works somehow make them a better person.  It is so easy to gain our sense of self-worth and significance from tackling these noble causes; and when we do these things for all the wrong reasons, we glorify ourselves instead of glorifying God.   

The warning of Christ is clear: be careful of doing your works of righteousness before men and to not allow your left hand to know what your right hand is doing.  In its essence, Jesus is teaching us that we need to be completely unaware of ourselves when we go out to feed the poor and clothe the naked.  It is not about you and how good you are; rather, it is about God and how good He is.  

Prayer: Lord, we confess that it is so easy to overlook the needs of the poor and the oppressed as we go through the daily routine of life.  Help us to have a heart of compassion as we interact with those who suffer from an unfair system of wealth and power.  Keep our hearts from being calloused so that we can minister with the same love that you showed to us.   Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 30 


Lunch Break Study  

Read Isaiah 58:6-12: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? 8 Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’  If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. 11 And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. 12 And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.

Questions to Consider 

  1. How is fasting and social justice connected?   
  2. What are the spiritual benefits of caring for the poor and hungry?
  3. Think of ways you can personally participate in social causes.    

Notes

  1. When you fast, you become acutely aware of the basic human needs- specifically the need for food and water.  Fasting can be used as a reminder that there are many people who don’t have access to the basic requirements of life.  To fast with no concern for others is a contradiction in terms.  
  2. The blessings of having our prayers answered and causing His glory to fall upon us are the great rewards for living a life of compassion.   As Jesus points out, we shine our light to the world through the good works that God has created for us to do, and as a result, we give glory to our Father in heaven.  
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Take time to reflect on this excerpt from the Lausanne Covenant on Christian social responsibility:

We affirm that God is both the Creator and the Judge of all men. We therefore should share his concern for justice and reconciliation throughout human society and for the liberation of men from every kind of oppression. Because mankind is made in the image of God, every person, regardless of race, religion, color, culture, class, sex or age, has an intrinsic dignity because of which he should be respected and served, not exploited. Here too we express penitence both for our neglect and for having sometimes regarded evangelism and social concern as mutually exclusive. 

Have you spent time praying for the injustices that you see around you?  Pray for fellow Christians who may be going through difficult times, especially those in the persecuted church.  Intercede on behalf of our missionaries in places like China, Vietnam, and Indonesia where the fight for human rights is a struggle.  

January 25, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 8, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

Philem. 1:4 

“I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers.”

Eph. 6:18b 

“Be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

I often room with this pastor whenever I travel with AMI pastors.   We’ve gotten so used to each other’s habits (both good and bad—no details please) that there are no surprises or odd moments between us.  For instance, since I am unable to sleep for too long whenever I am on the road, I am up quite early to pray; to avoid waking up the pastor, I pray in the bathroom where I stay for some time.  Once, while I was praying, I heard the door being opened and then quickly close.  Knowing that my roommate, not wanting to bother me, left the room to look for a restroom, I quickly got out to tell him to come back.

There are many people whose prayer life is much richer and longer than mine but I do try to pray at least an hour a day since Christ expected his disciples to pray that long (Matt. 26:40).  For those who run out of things to pray in about five minutes, that might seem too long.  One reason some people can pray two to three hours a day is because they understand the art of intercessory prayer.  Just as Paul prayed for his disciple Philemon, we pray for other people, consistently and specifically.  

During the Vision Trip of 2013, I met a vibrant young lady from California, who belongs to the Screen Actor’s Guild, and is looking for a role in a sitcom.  One day, I abruptly asked her to give a short speech after winning an imaginary Emmy.  Not quite sure of what I was up to, she, nevertheless, went along, thanking the production crew, her families, and finally, Jesus Christ.  Upon hearing that, I said, “Since you plan to give glory to Christ, I will pray that you will soon get a role.”  Thus, I have been praying for her consistently ever since.   

When you add to your daily prayer the prayer needs of others, that’s how you can end up praying for an hour or longer daily.  And there is a lot of joy, and even a sense of fulfillment that comes from consistently praying for people whom you know, as well as those who you don’t know as well, like missionaries.   I invite you this morning to pray for someone, with all your heart.  

Prayer: Dear God, I cannot fathom at this point how I can pray for five minutes daily let alone an hour.  But I do want to and need to pray, not only for myself but also for others.  Lord, help me to understand the importance and the beauty of intercessory prayer; motivate me to actually do it consistently.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 29


Lunch Break Study

Read Col. 4:12: “Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.”

Matt. 26:38b, 40-1: “‘Stay here and keep watch with me’ . . . Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. ‘Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?’ he asked Peter. 41 ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’”

Eph. 6:18-9: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. 19 Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What are some prerequisites in order for us to engage in consistent intercessory prayers?
  2. What are some specific things that we can pray for others?
  3. Is your prayer life adequate?  What keeps you from disciplining yourself to pray consistently?

Notes

  1. Those who have wrestled know that that sport demands intense conditioning.  During a match, there is no time to think about other things except to wrestle the opponent.  Likewise, to pray consistently, we need to focus and avoid doing things that would take away the desire to pray (like mindlessly watching TV or surf the internet).
  2. Epaphras prayed that the Colossian believers would become more mature and assured in their faith. Since Jesus told the three disciples to pray in order to not fall into temptation, we can pray for others that they do not succumb to it as well.  Jesus himself asked them to support him in prayer during the most agonizing moment of his life prior to the crucifixion. 
  3. For most people, it begins with a lack of will and absence of desperation; they have become too comfortable with the things as they are.  We don’t pray for others because of our self-adsorption has rendered us indifferent to their needs.  Overall, we have no real plan to establish a prayer life.  It would be helpful to have a designated place and set time to pray.

Evening Reflection

Before you go to sleep today, pray for at least three people whose needs you are well-aware of.  And then, write a short prayer asking God to help you to pray more diligently for others.

January 24, Sunday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey, was first posted on October 28, 2013.  He is a graduate of University of Wisconsin (BA) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Best Father You Can Ever Have”

Psalm 103:13, 17 (NIV)

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him…. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children . . .”

Throughout the Scripture, the imagery of father is used to represent God.  While those who have good earthly fathers can readily relate to this, even those who are not so good fathers would not give a stone to a son who asked for bread (Matt. 7:9).   Even so, as good as some of our fathers are, it pales in comparison to the character of our Heavenly Father.  So whether we have a strong relationship with our earthly father, one important aspect of our faith journey is to know our Heavenly Father and to build a strong relationship with Him: personally, experientially, and intimately.

King David, known as a man after God’s own heart, knew the Heavenly Father intimately and built a deep relationship with Him; many of the Psalms are David’s wonderful songs about his God.   Was this because David’s father Jesse was a wonderful and wise man?   Not necessarily.   When asked by Samuel to bring his sons to anoint one of them, Jesse didn’t even think to call David, who, being the youngest of the eight sons (I Sam. 16:8-10), was not as physically impressive as his brothers.  During a dangerous period of war, Jesse sent David to find out the safety of his other sons (1Sam.17:16-17). Though we do not have the whole picture of the relationship between David and his father, my guess is that Jesse wasn’t the greatest father to David.  But regardless of his relationship with his father, David had a wonderful relationship with the Heavenly Father.  He sings,

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1-5 NIV)

So, if you haven’t had the best of the earthly fathers, it’s okay.  You can still have a great relationship with the Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:1).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me not to come to You just for Your benefits but to enjoy intimacy with You.  Remind me of the good things You are doing in my life.  Empower me to give You appropriate praises and thanks in response. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 28

January 23, Saturday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Cami King who serves as associate pastor at Remnant Church in Manhattan, was first posted on November 22, 2014.  Cami is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.).  

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Burger Theology”

Proverbs 12:10

A righteous person cares forthe life of his animal, but even the most compassionate acts of the wicked are cruel.

A few years ago, I met a woman who truly loved her cat. She had a sickly cat that required constant care, medications, doctor’s visits, and she faithfully cared for him through it all. When I first met these two, I thought their relationship odd – such devotion to an animal that couldn’t give the same in return and likely didn’t understand the care he was receiving didn’t make sense to me. But if you asked her why she did it, she’d say because God made and loves her cat. 

And then one day, it hit me. I was sitting at the lunch table, about to enjoy a burger, when all of a sudden my heart was moved with what I can only describe as compassion… for my burger. I thought of the animal whose life was no more all so that I could enjoy my delicious (and it was delicious!) burger. And then I thought of all the inhumane ways that cow come to be beef on my plate. And my heart was moved (there may or may not have even been a tear in my eye). In that moment, I was sincerely thankful to God for creating the cow and for the privilege of being able to enjoy a burger. And I was deeply repentant on behalf of my society for not taking more care in the process by which the cow became my burger.

It was a weird moment, if I’m honest, but it was one in which God taught me a thing or two about His heart. God is a being marked by kindness, compassion, tenderness, and mercy. And that mercy is so great, that it can’t help but flow forth to His creation – and not just the human creation, but the animals too. And when God made man in His image so that they might “rule” over the earth (Genesis 1:26), he intended our rule to be one that looked much like his own – marked by kindness and overflowing with mercy. 

I don’t tell this story to suggest that Christians should run around hugging trees, but I do wish to say that the compassion and mercy of God within us should be evident not only in our dealings with one another, but with all of creation. Our societal consumerism programs us to see all of creation (people, animals, and nature alike) as objects for our use and consumption. But God did not intend things to be this way. So, as we go through our day today, may we look at the squirrel and the bee and the tree anew. May we care for and appreciate all life around us the way our Heavenly Father does. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your kindness and gentleness and compassion from which I benefit everyday. Open my eyes to see all life around me the way You do. Help my heart to be so full of your kindness and compassion that it marks my dealings with all that You’ve created.  

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 26-27

January 22, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor David Kwon who heads Journey Community Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, was first posted on November 28, 2013.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (BS) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“The Reason to Praise the Lord”

Psalm 117:1-2

Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! [2] For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!

This is the shortest Psalm in the Psalter, but as Derek Kidner rightly notes, its faith is “great” and “its reach is enormous.”  He added, “The shortest Psalm proves, in fact, to be one of the most potent and most seminal.”  How so?

The first striking feature of this Psalm is its call for all nations and all people to praise God. It is, therefore, a missionary psalm, calling on all peoples everywhere to extol God.   The second important feature is the reason why all nations should praise God: His steadfast love and faithfulness, which endures forever.  

On this day, we should be reminded of the greatness of His love for the nations as well as for us.   God expressed the fullest measure of His love for us in Christ; in Him, we have abundant life (Jn. 10:10) in this age and eternal life in the age to come.  The innumerable promises of the Lord, such as tarrying with us in our trials or answering our prayers, are as fresh and intact now as on the day they were made; and they will remain so.  

Take some time this morning praising and thanking the Lord for His love and faithfulness.  Meditate on the Cross and how it shows His great love for you.  May worship and praise arise as you think about Christ.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You that You are at work in my life despite not seeing it clearly at times.  Help me to be faithful and continue to trust Your plan for me.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 25


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 2:1-7: And you were dead in the trespasses and sins [2] in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—[3] among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. [4] But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, [5] even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—[6] and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, [7] so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

Questions to Consider

  1. According to Paul, what is the true condition of humans?
  2. What does man desperately need from God?
  3. What moves our Lord to send Jesus to die for ours sins?

Notes

  1. Man is not only spiritually dead but is an object of the wrath of God, who is holy and just.   
  2. Paul describes man’s condition apart from the grace and mercy of God. Thankfully, Jesus has not left men in their miserable state, but has chosen to rescue those chosen from the foundation of the world (1:3–6).  
  3. It certainly is not any good we have done; being separated from God because of sins, we were undeserving of His love.  Whatever righteousness we thought we possessed was nothing but dirty rags (Isa. 64:6). What moves Him, Paul tells us, is His own mercy, love, grace, and kindness (Eph. 2:4–7).  It bears repeating that God has shown His grace and mercy when we did not deserve it.  

Evening Reflection

One of our greatest needs as human beings is to be loved.  We have the need to know that we are important to somebody and that someone truly cares and accepts us unconditionally.  If this need is not met, we are liable to develop unacceptable behavior patterns to compensate for this need.

Remember, there is nothing we can do to make Jesus love us more, and nothing we will ever do will cause Him to love us any less. He loves us perfectly and completely regardless of how we perform; His love is unconditional.  Even if we don’t love ourselves, He still loves us. 

Having known and experienced His great love and mercy, we should show that same kindness to others in our lives.  Take some time to pray so that God’s love and mercy would be manifested abundantly in your life.  

January 21, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, is an updated version of his blog first posted on April 11, 2013.  He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“What Honest Prayer Looks Like”

Psalm 35:22-24

O Lord, you have seen this; be not silent. Do not be far from me, O Lord. 23 Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. 24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, O Lord my God; do not let them gloat over me.

Did David really believe that God was sleeping and needed waking?  My guess is no. But we receive here a great example of honest and authentic prayer.  One of the reasons I love the book of Psalms is that we are shown that we can pray very honest prayers.

One of the practices that will kill our prayer life is to pray “Miss Universe” type prayers, praying for world peace, etc.  Shallow, inauthentic prayers will eventually lead us away from praying.  After-all, even the most determined hypocrites among us have our limits!  David shows us that prayer is not necessarily about saying the right thing, but is first about honest communication with God.  

I don’t believe God judges us based upon the wording of our prayers. (He doesn’t need to since He can look right into our hearts.)  As we open our hearts up to God in honest prayer, then God can work in our hearts to begin to pray more theologically sound prayers.  But it starts with honest prayer.

How authentic are your prayers?  Remember that God can see your heart already.  There’s no point faking it before God!

Prayer: Father, I thank You that we can approach You in complete honesty.  I also thank You that no matter how messed up my heart is, You still desire my prayers and a relationship with me.  I also confess that like David, I don’t understand Your ways.  Sometimes You seem so far away or slow to act.  I know that You are not sleeping, but I don’t understand why You don’t act more obviously and quickly to halt the injustices in my life and to bring healing when I ask.  Help me to trust in You and Your timing.  Help me to keep pressing on in prayer, believing that this is what You desire of me.  In Jesus’s name, I pray.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 24


Lunch Break Study

Read Exodus 32:11-14 (NIV): But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “O Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people. 13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’” 14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

Questions to Consider

  1. By happy coincidence, the daily readings coincide today with the lunch break study!  So this should be a relatively easy question to answer: What is the context of this passage?
  2. How does Moses intercede for his people?
  3. In Numbers 12:3, Moses is described as a “very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”  What does this incident teach us about the nature of true humility?

Notes

  1. In Exodus 32, the people of Israel get tired of waiting for Moses, who was receiving the Law from God on Mount Sinai. They ask Aaron to make for them gods that they can see. Aaron makes for them a golden calf, of which he declares, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you out of Egypt.”
  2. Moses boldly reminds God of his promise to bring his people out of Egypt, and his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (aka Israel) to bless their descendants. Interestingly, Moses also argues that God should be concerned with his reputation among the Egyptians (v. 12).
  3. Humility is obviously not the same as shyness or a lack of boldness. Moses, “the humblest man on the face of the earth” boldly confronts God even in the face of God’s anger, and reminds God of his promises. This is not arrogance on Moses’s part. We see elsewhere that Moses is not concerned about his reputation (for example, he does not respond to the challenge of his authority in Numbers 12), but rather, in his humility, he is zealous for God’s reputation. The truly humble person is more concerned about God’s reputation than his/her own.

Additional comment: As much as this passage tells us about Moses, we also learn something about God’s character.  God could have rebuked Moses for his presumption.  A small and petty god might have punished Moses for daring to challenge him.  Instead, God listens to Moses’ intercession.  We have here a picture of a God who deeply cares about those he is in relationship with, and hears their petitions and concerns.


Evening Reflection

In your journaling tonight, make every effort to be as honest as possible.  We are not journaling so that our future selves might have a certain picture of us, but to wrestle (if necessary) with the Spirit of God, and to root and establish ourselves in His love!

January 20, Wednesday

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“What It Means to Bless Others”

Philem. 1:2

“To . . . Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home.” 

Rom. 16:3, 5

“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my co-workers in Christ Jesus. . . . Greet also the church that meets at their house.” 

I have always enjoyed attending a church that met at someone’s home.  For one thing, you get real food (and lots of it) after the service instead of refreshments that always leave you hungrier.   To those who think church in terms of a great cathedral with stained glass windows, meeting at someone’s home for church makes little sense; this also shows their lack of understanding of what the church truly is.  

While building is important since a place is needed to meet, keep in mind that “the Lord . . . does not live in temples built by hands” (Acts 17:24).  What’s more important is that the believers in whom dwells the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13) are gathered together to praise God first and fellowship with one another afterwards (Acts 2:46-7).  Before this gathering became too big, thereby needing a larger space, the earliest churches always met at someone’s home.  Unfortunately, the closeness and personableness that one felt there did not always translate very well once the meeting took place in a large cathedral.   

Can you imagine hosting a family or cell group, or a startup Sunday service at your home?  If you are going to lose sleep over people spilling coffee on your carpet or leaving stains on your wall, then, I understand that you would rather not.  But every good gift from above (James 1:17) comes with a purpose; perhaps the big house you are blessed to own is so that many can gather there to worship the Lord in an intimate setting.  Of course, the same thought can extend to other things that we have received from the Lord; whether it is wealth, knowledge or skill, we ought to share it with others.  Luke said the following about the early church: “All the believers were one in heart and mind . . . They shared everything they had” (Acts 4:32).

So, how is your generosity and willingness to share with others?  In 2021, how about blessing others with your space, food, and time?  Turn your home into a house of worship.  

Prayer: Lord, I admit that I always want a little more than what I have.  Instead of wanting less, I would like to ask for more so that I may use what you give me to expand your kingdom.  God, if I start hoarding what you give me solely for my own comfort while turning blind eyes to those in need, please decrease your material blessings in my life so that I may not offend you with my inappropriate usage of them.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 23


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 10:38-41:

“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’  41 ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.’”

Questions to Consider

  1. Martha always gets a short end of this narrative but what are some things we can learn from her?
  2. In light of Martha’s predicament, what are some potential hazards of hosting a cell group or Sunday service at home?
  3. What is the ultimate purpose of the gathering of believers whether they meet at someone’s home or in a bigger space called the local church? 

Notes

  1. She opened her home for Jesus so he can teach and minister to others.  In addition, she spared no expense in preparing many sumptuous dishes to celebrate his presence and to feed others. 
  2. The primary hazard is this: being so preoccupied with making sure that everything goes perfect that the host of the meeting does not participate in the worship itself.  The second hazard is complaining about people: Martha was piqued at Mary for not helping out.  We might get upset at people for eating too much, or not cleaning up after themselves, or not saying thank you; however, let’s curb our complaint since we did it for the Lord.  
  3. It is to draw near to the Lord while worshiping him through praising him and listening to his word.

Evening Reflection

Did you have an opportunity to be generous today?  How did you fare?  Were you a recipient of someone’s generosity?  How did you feel?  Wrap up your day around these themes.  Let’s do better tomorrow. 

January 19, Tuesday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by then (2013) staff of Remnant Westside Church in Manhattan, was first posted on September 2, 2013.  It has been updated. 

Devotional Thought for This Morning 

“How We Pray When Facing Messy Situations

Psalm 83:1-18

O God, do not keep silence; do not hold your peace or be still, O God! 2 For behold, your enemies make an uproar; those who hate you have raised their heads. 3 They lay crafty plans against your people; they consult together against your treasured ones. 4 They say, “Come, let us wipe them out as a nation; let the name of Israel be remembered no more!” 5 For they conspire with one accord; against you they make a covenant— 6 the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites, Moab and the Hagrites, 7 Gebal and Ammon and Amalek, Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; 8 Asshur also has joined them; they are the strong arm of the children of Lot. Selah 9 Do to them as you did to Midian, as to Sisera and Jabin at the river Kishon, 10 who were destroyed at En-dor, who became dung for the ground. 11 Make their nobles like Oreb and Zeeb, all their princes like Zebah and Zalmunna, 12 who said, “Let us take possession for ourselves of the pastures of God.” 13 O my God, make them like whirling dust, like chaff before the wind. 14 As fire consumes the forest, as the flame sets the mountains ablaze, 15 so may you pursue them with your tempest and terrify them with your hurricane! 16 Fill their faces with shame, that they may seek your name, O Lord. 17 Let them be put to shame and dismayed forever; let them perish in disgrace, 18 that they may know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.

What do we do when we find ourselves in a great big mess?  It’s good that we pray in times like that but what do we say to God?  In today’s passage we see how the psalmist prayed when facing a very difficult and threatening situation.  

As we have all noticed, many times, the Psalms that we read appear quite difficult to connect personally.   For instance, the Psalmist here is expressing his grave concern over a multitude of enemies of Israel who seek to annihilate God’s people.  However, instead of asking for strength to overcome his enemies or power to experience the victory, the writer asks that God would manifest Himself in His glory.  It is not a great personal victory that the Psalmist is looking for, but rather, the raising of the name of God above all names.

While our oppositions certainly are not as militant and brutal as those in this Psalm, we face other pressures that are quite real to us.  The secular world in which we live entices the people of God to conform to its pattern (Rom. 12:2) and expects them to put up with the mockery of their faith and God.  All around our society, there is a great uproar of secularism that seeks to quiet the name of God from being proclaimed.  

Therefore, in addition to praying for God to meet our daily needs such as provision and strength, let us also pray that God would manifest Himself in such a victorious manner that “every tongue confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:11).

Prayer: “LORD, I shout ‘AMEN’ as You tell me to inquire of Your wisdom, seek Your knowledge, depend on Your strength, and ultimately, be content in Your presence.  Oh, God, what can I possibly do that can bring the honor that You alone deserve?  LORD, I give you my heart!”  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 22


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians* 1:1-2: “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

*The Book of Philippians was written while the apostle Paul was under house arrest in Rome (59-61 AD).

Questions to Consider

  1. What two aspects of our identity does this passage address?
  2. What does it mean that we are addressed as saints even though we often do not act saintly? 
  3. How is your service to Lord today? Are there specific ways that God is calling you to serve? Are there other “masters” that we need to renounce so that we may serve the one true Master?

Notes

  1. These verses speak to two aspects of our identity in Christ, namely being servants and being saints.  Servant connotes that there is a Master to whom we are submitted. Saint, or holy one, references our justified standing before God.  
  2. Though our sins make us unholy and utterly deserving of God’s judgment, we have been justified by the atoning work of Christ; as a result, we can rightly stand before the holy God.The Christian life is about growing into conformity to the identity that God has already established in us in Christ.
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

As we wrap up this day, let us celebrate our triumphant and righteous God who causes joyful hope to prevail in our hearts even during the most challenging and troubling times.  Offer a prayer of thanksgiving unto the Lord.