February 27, Saturday

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor Young Kim of Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia, was originally posted on June 13, 2013.  Young is a graduate of University of Illinois (BS), Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Westminster Theological Seminary (MA). 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

Proverbs 13:20

“He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.”

This proverb is no different than what Paul tells the Corinthians, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor. 15:33).  The kind of people whom you surround yourself with is THAT important.  Walk with wise people and it will greatly bless you, but if you do the very opposite, you will suffer harm!

I love this verse and I have tried hard to walk with the wise. I pray that you will too.  Your friends are helping you to become more passionate for Jesus or they are not.  I pray you will walk with the wise. 

Prayer: Lord, may I not suffer harm but walk with the wise.  In Jesus’ name, amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 14-15

February 26, 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 June 4, 2014.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (BS) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Grace Unlimited”

1 Timothy 1:12-17

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, [13] though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, [14] and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. [15] The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. [16] But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. [17] To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

I remember a friend of mine telling me a story of how he got pulled over by the cops for excessive speeding.  As he waited for the cop to come talk to him, he felt a sense of fear and shame because of what he had done.  After some time of begging and pleading with the police officer, he let him go and did not give him a ticket.  What an act of grace! 

Grace is what the Christian faith is all about:  It is grace that saves us and transforms us.  In these powerful verses, Paul is reminded of who he was before Christ, and how Jesus has saved him by his overflowing “hyper-plentiful” grace.   The word “overflow” in the Greek is hyperpleonazō, which means that God’s grace is not merely sufficient or even plentiful — it is emphasizing the superabundance (or hyper-abundance) of God’s grace.  In verses 14-15, Paul testifies of what this superabundant grace can do – save unworthy and undeserving sinners which Paul calls himself the worst of all.  It means that nobody is beyond grace.  If the Lord could redeem Saul, a onetime persecutor of Christ, then He can save anyone. This is why Paul saw his transformation as an example for all who would believe after his conversion (v. 16).

How often do we take the time to meditate upon the hyper-abundant grace of our Lord? His grace redeems and saves imperfect people like us.  Spend some time this morning thanking God for his grace.  Ask the Lord that the reality of his grace would transform us.  

Prayer: Jesus, thank you that your grace has saved and redeemed me.  Help me not to take your abundant grace for granted, and may it lead to continual thanksgiving and transformation in my own life.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 13


Lunch Break Study  

Read 2 Corinthians 12:9-10: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. [10] For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Questions to Consider 

  1. How does Paul view grace with respect to his weakness and hardship?
  2. Paul says that he boasts in his weakness so that Christ’s power may rest upon him.  How should this verse encourage us in our weakness?  
  3. Do you see God’s abundant grace in hardship and weakness?  Ask the Lord that his grace would be sufficient for you today.  

Notes

  1. Paul gives us a correct view of grace, which is that God’s grace in our lives enables us to go through difficulty and hardship.  We can experience his love, mercy, and power in our weakness.
  2. These verses should encourage us because it is Christ who gives us strength when we are at our weakest.  We don’t need to come up with our own ways or strength when we face opposition; but rather, we can look to the power of Jesus.  
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Spend time reflecting on his grace.  How has grace changed you and strengthened you recently?  Pray that his superabundant grace would give you hope and contentment.  

February 25, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on September 15, 2014; it has been updated. Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Turning the Blessings of God into a Curse”

Ecclesiastes 6:1-6 (ESV)

There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: 2 a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil. 3 If a man fathers a hundred children and lives many years, so that the days of his years are many, but his soul is not satisfied with life’s good things, and he also has no burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. 4 For it comes in vanity and goes in darkness, and in darkness its name is covered. 5 Moreover, it has not seen the sun or known anything, yet it finds rest rather than he. 6 Even though he should live a thousand years twice over, yet enjoy no good—do not all go to the one place? 

In reading Ecclesiastes, you realize that the more things seem to change, in reality they stay the same.  From the beginning of history, worldly success has been measured by the triumvirate of wealth, long life and children.  Children?  Regardless of how few children we may have today, their behaviors, their involvement in sports and other activities, and their academic progress constantly preoccupy our minds.  But, as some of us already know, wealth, stable children, and optimal health are still no guarantee of a good and happy life.  In fact, the worst thing possible is to be unhappy despite possessing these things.  Where then can we turn?

For this reason, Solomon writes that it is better to have been a stillborn child, to never have lived than to live without being able to enjoy the wealth and the family during the length of years that God has given us.   Somehow, we humans will find a way to turn the blessings of God into a curse: squandering our financial wealth so that someone else enjoys it; after raising “successful” children, they have become so embittered towards us that they will not be at our bedside in death.  Moreover, to live 75 years, not to mention 2000 years, is an interminable amount of time if we are filled with constant discontentment.  Some of us continue to live in the same way as the man who confessed, “I hate life but I am afraid of death.”  

Thus, it isn’t hard to see why this chapter is deemed as one of the darkest in the Scriptures; but there is a glimmer of hope.  Solomon, led by the Spirit, correctly diagnoses the solution to this dilemma: God is the one who gives us the power to enjoy everything we have in life, whether it’s a lot or a little.  Christ, who had no wealth, no children, and a life shortened to thirty-three years, reveals that our life is so much more than these three factors, that the abundant life is not dependent on having these things checked off on our list of accomplishments.  In fact, if our soul is not first satisfied in our relationship with God, then we will find no satisfaction in anything that the world offers.  

So today, refocus; realize that “for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee” (Augustine).

Prayer: Father, we have been created with eternity in our hearts but yet we try to fill that void with so many temporary and material things.  Help us to see that a heart that is not satisfied in you, can never find ultimate satisfaction in anything at all.  Thank You that you give us the power to enjoy the gifts of wealth, family, and life itself.  In Jesus name.  Amen

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 12


Lunch Break Study  

Read John 10:7-15 (ESV): So Jesus again said to them, “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 listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by 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 does not own 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 cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.

Questions to Consider 

  1. How does Jesus give us the abundant life?  
  2. What is the enemy of the abundant life?
  3. How can we personally learn to live abundantly? 

Notes

  1. Jesus teaches us that He is both the gate and the shepherd through which we can enter into the safety of the fold and the plentiful forage of the pasture.  All other philosophies of life apart from a relationship with Christ ultimately lead to death and destruction.  Only Jesus can lead us to streams of living water and to a life in all of its fullness.  
  2. Sometimes the enemies of the abundant life are disguised as self-help gurus or even teachers of religion.  There are many who advertise themselves as guides to life but the only path to true life is found in the person of Jesus and his teaching.  
  3. We can learn to live abundantly by growing in our knowledge of Christ and learning to trust him as our good shepherd.    

Evening Reflection

Can you describe your life as being abundant?  How has Jesus been a guide to your life?  Can you recognize the dangers of following other ways of finding satisfaction in life?  Spend some time reflecting on what it means for Jesus to be your shepherd.  

February 24, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 15, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“You Owe Me One”Only If You Want To”

Philem. 1:8-9

“Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, 9 yet I appeal to you on the basis of love.” 

Here, the apostle Paul is about to ask Philemon to do something that perhaps the latter may not want to do.  At this point, what is being asked is not as important as recognizing that this happens almost every day in our lives.  Are you a parent?  How do you get your preteen to do something she doesn’t feel like doing?  Are you a pastor?  How do you get your congregant to commit to a responsibility that he or she doesn’t like?

How would experts advise you?   As a parent, it may be wise to avoid saying to your kid, “Do this for me since I did nice things for you and your friends last week.”  As a pastor, I may counsel you to avoid saying to your congregant, “If you don’t do this, God won’t bless you.”  I will address the merits of these approaches tomorrow, but for now, let’s see how God does it.

Well, we already know that God won’t force anything on us, for He gives us free will.  Nevertheless, to steer us toward the right direction, the Lord does remind us of what He did on our behalf in the past.  For instance, since the Israelites “forgot the God who saved them, who had done great things in Egypt” (Ps. 106:21), they were told to “remember the wonders he has done, his miracles” (Ps. 105:5a).  Moreover, God wants us to know that “all these blessings will come up on you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God” (Deut. 28:2).  After that, God will appeal to us on the basis of His love, expressed ultimately in Christ, to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Jos. 24:15).

So, what is that one thing that the Lord is asking you to do which you find difficult to carry out?  Is it a matter of forgiving someone or being generous toward a godly cause?   Whatever it may be, remember God’s goodness as well as the terms of His blessing; then obey out of your love for Him. 

Prayer: “Dear Lord, I exalt you and lift your name on high this morning.  I thank you for not making us like a robot that has no free will.  Help me to use prudently this precious gift to choose you and your ways.  When I do not use it for your glory, gently remind me of your goodness and to obey you out of love.”  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 11


Lunch Break Study

Read Jeremiah 35:12-6:  Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying: 13 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?’ declares the Lord. 14 ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab ordered his descendants not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me. 15 Again and again I sent all my servants the prophets to you.’  They said, ‘Each of you must turn from your wicked ways and reform your actions; do not follow other gods to serve them. Then you will live in the land I have given to you and your ancestors.  But you have not paid attention or listened to me. 16 The descendants of Jehonadab son of Rekab have carried out the command their forefather gave them, but these people have not obeyed me.‘ ”

Questions to Consider

When I first realized what God is doing here, I felt both sad and had a new appreciation for God.  

  1. In what sense is this narrative sad?
  2. In what sense does this narrative cause us to appreciate God?
  3. If you were a prophet whom God sent to turn the Israelites [described as “the fewest of all peoples” (Deut. 7:7)] from their sinful ways, how would you have appealed to them on the basis of love?

Notes

  1. It is sad in the sense that the God of the universe cannot get the kind of respect from His people (for whom so much was done by Him) that the forefathers of the Recabites, mere humans, received from their descendants on account of nothing more than simply being told. 
  2. God could have wiped them out at any moment, but He continued to reason with the Israelites (Is. 1:18: “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the LORD”) so that they could be placed in a position (obedience) to be blessed by Him.  
  3. I would say: “Israelites, despite the fact that you were not so significant and not so righteous (Deut. 9:6), God in His grace chose you to be His people.  So, show some gratitude by turning from your rebellious ways and return to God.”

Evening Reflection

Did anything occur today that reminded you of God’s love?  Did you face a choice that could have expressed your love and loyalty to God?  How did you fare?  Review your day here. 

February 23, Tuesday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by then (2013) staff of Remnant Westside Church in Manhattan, was first posted on September 13, 2013.  

Devotional Thought for This Morning 

“Who Are We?”

Psalm 87:4-7

Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon; behold, Philistia and Tyre, with Cush—“This one was born there,” they say. 5 And of Zion it shall be said, “This one and that one were born in her”; for the Most High himself will establish her. 6 The Lord records as he registers the peoples, “This one was born there.” Selah 7 Singers and dancers alike say, “All my springs are in you.”

Who are we? God says one thing while the world says something completely opposite. So which voice do you heed?

In this Psalm, there is juxtaposition between some of the major nations surrounding the nation of Israel and the city of Zion itself. These metropolitan areas were major sources of power, wealth, and influence. Yet, the key distinguishing element that separated Zion from these other nations is that it is God Himself who established that city, intimately numbering each and every person who dwells in Zion. 

This reality becomes manifested through singers and dancers who worship the Lord and proclaim that their springs are in God. They declare that their source of life, that spring of life, is in God alone.

As Christians, there is always a constant pressure to conform to the pattern of this world. The temptations and paradigms set by the major influencing powers compel us to put our identity in the things of this world. Yet, we know that God Himself is the source of that river of life that uplifts, saves, and restores. 

This morning, God is calling us to examine where we find our identity. Do we let the world define our identity, or do we let God establish it? Can we, like the worshippers in verse 7, declare that all of our springs are found in God? Remember that God knows you intimately and has counted you as his own, calling you to find your identity only in Him.

Prayer: Lord, I’m amazed and so grateful to know that Your goodness follows me!  Wow, Lord! You love to bless Your people. Oh God, Your beautiful, bountiful, gracious, cheerful, loving, presence follows me! Your mercy, favor, and goodness follow me through all the seasons of my life, whether in times of trouble or peace, for You are perpetually present!  Thank You.  Praise You.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 10


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 2:8-11: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Philippians 2:7 says that the mind of Christ (v.5) led to this radical change of Christ’s relationship to the world, i.e., he was in very nature God (v.6), yet took up the form of a servant (v7).  How does verse 8 amplify that reality?
  2. What did Jesus, in fact, do for us?
  3. What does Phil. 2:9-11 give us?
  4. Are there areas that you are tempted to exalt yourself? What areas of your life are you struggling to surrender to Christ’s lordship?

Notes

  1. It says that Christ assumed every aspect of being a servant up to and including dying on a cross (v.8).
  2. Jesus didn’t just teach us to be humble servants, He showed us; in other words, he practiced what he preached.
  3. Verses 9-11 give us fuel for adoration today. He is worthy of our worship and praise!
  4. Bring them before the Lord in prayer so that the mind of Christ will manifest as humility in your life. 

Evening Reflection

Psalm 23:6: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

“Jesus, I am transformed as I reflect upon the beauty of your presence. I acknowledge that I am fed and protected by you, my Shepherd. With great joy, I will rest in you and be refreshed for I lack nothing in you, my Lord, the One who leads me.  Throughout the week, I will adore you as I move you to the center and remove the other things that try to take your place. I will adore you as I make my work, my worship, and my relationships an invitation for you. Without this knowledge of you, I’m lost; yet with this knowledge, I dwell in your glorious presence forever.  Amen.”

February 22, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by the then (2013) staff of Kairos Christian Church in San Diego, is an updated version of their blog first posted on July 26, 2013.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Can God Use Me?”

Psalm 78:65-72

Then the Lord awoke as from sleep, as a man wakes from the stupor of wine. 66 He beat back his enemies; he put them to everlasting shame. 67 Then he rejected the tents of Joseph, he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim; 68 but he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion, which he loved.  69 He built his sanctuary like the heights, like the earth that he established forever. 70 He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; 71 from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance. 72 And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. 

Do you ever wonder if God can use you?  Maybe you’re an accountant or an IT technician, and you’ve always wondered if God could use someone like you.  

David was a shepherd by trade.  He was the youngest of eight brothers, given the job to watch the family’s sheep.  God took this young shepherd from the sheep pens and made him the king of Israel.  David took what he learned from shepherding sheep and applied it to shepherding a nation.  He took what he already knew and used it for God’s work.  In v. 72, it describes how he shepherded God’s people.  He did it with integrity of heart, a pure heart.  He also used the skills that he learned as a shepherd to lead.  

This is how David was used by God to make an impact in God’s kingdom.  If God can use a young shepherd to lead a nation, God can also use you, right where you are, using all that God has given you.

Ephesians 4:7 says, “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”  God has given you gifts for an important role in the body of Christ.  What are you doing for the Lord today?

Prayer: Father, thank You for saving me and giving me gifts, abilities, and experiences for Your purposes.  Please show me how I can serve You.  I want to be used by You to influence and impact people’s lives for Your glory.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 9


Lunch Break Study

James 5:1-6 (NIV): Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. 2 Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty.5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

Questions to Consider

  1. What strong warning does James announce to those who are oppressing the poor?  
  2. What sins of oppression are illustrated by James in vv. 3-6?
  3. Have you taken the opportunity to financially assist those who are in need around you, in your community, your church, your family, etc.?  

Notes

  1. James warns that any attempts to insulate oneself from difficulties by becoming rich will lead to sins of oppression and incur God’s judgment upon the oppressive ways. In fact, all of the riches that have been accumulated will rot and corrode.
  2. James notes that the rich have hoarded wealth by indulging in excessive and self-centered lifestyles; they have made their money at the expense of others; they have destroyed innocent lives. God will one day bring justice to such oppressors. Christians are not to usurp God’s role as avenger and the one who brings about justice; rather believers must patiently wait. 
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

In what ways did you sense that you were God’s steward in the things that have been given to you for the sake of God’s Kingdom? 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please keep my heart pure when it comes to world’s riches. Help me to use what I’ve been given to bless others. Amen.   

February 21, Sunday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI, who in the past has served as a staff at several AMI churches, is an updated version of his blog first posted on April 19, 2014.  He is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Cairn University (MA).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“A Confession of a Believer Who Doesn’t Want Christ to Return Any Time Soon”

John 14:1-3

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.

The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is an awkward time for us as believers.  If your church is like mine, you probably went to a Good Friday service last night, where the service was probably centered on Christ’s sacrifice.  There is typically a solemn atmosphere at churches on Good Friday.  Of course, Easter (or Resurrection Sunday, if you prefer) is an entirely different story.  He is alive!  Let’s celebrate!  But what is Saturday?  Do I try to go through the “disciple experience” and continue in a melancholy state because Christ died?  This seems odd since I know what has already happened.  On the other hand, I can’t just party like its Easter, because it’s not Easter yet.  For me, Saturday has always been waiting day.  Basically, I patiently wait through Saturday to experience the joy of the resurrection on Sunday.  Today, I am going to play off of this theme of waiting, to help us think about something we don’t think about nearly enough, namely, the second coming of our Lord.  

In this passage, Christ, on the eve of his crucifixion, gave these words to his disciples in order to comfort them in their coming grief.  But more than comfort, Jesus was instilling hope by assuring them that he would one day return and that they would have a place with him in paradise.  Similarly, if you read through the New Testament, it becomes clear that the first century Christians were desperate for Christ’s return and many even thought it was imminent.  

Of course, as moderns we can say that part of the reason the early church was so heavenly-minded was that they faced persecution for their faith.  The idea that Christ was coming brought a tremendous amount of comfort to those who were being jailed or having property confiscated or even being killed; the king is going to return and bring us into his kingdom.  But that might be the problem.  As a middle class American, I am relatively happy, and I can’t remember the last time I longed for Christ’s return.  But really, is any believer’s life so great that Christ return wouldn’t improve it by a million percent?  For me there are a number of reasons why I don’t consider Christ’s return more:  First, I like my life in this world too much.  Second, I really don’t fathom what being with Christ would be like.  Third, I’ve been lulled into complacency.  Fourth, I don’t see the world as bad as it really is.  The list goes on and on, and I would imagine we have our own similar lists.  

Today, let me ask you seriously, if Christ came to you in a dream or vision and made you the offer, “I can come back tomorrow, if you want”, would you take him up on it, or is life too good?  When was the last time you thought about and longed for Christ’s return or thought about heaven?  I believe the practice of thinking of eternity is a discipline that the modern church has lost.  Spend five minutes today; it’s okay to be a little heavenly minded.  Sometimes hoping for tomorrow helps us to be faithful for today.  

Prayer: “Come, O Lord!” (1 Cor. 16:22b). 

Bible Reading for Today:  Acts 8

February 20, Saturday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Matt Ro who formerly pastored Journey Church in Atlanta, was originally posted on May 4, 2013.  Matt is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BS) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.). 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Walking Dead”

Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)

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.

No one likes to face death or even talk about it than Americans, but today’s text gives us no choice, for Paul says that we were all dead in the past.  

What are some characteristics of a “dead” person prior to living a life of faith? At the onset of this chapter, Paul reminds us of the problem of human sin that once controlled us.  It would be offensive to tell anyone, particularly those brimming with confidence, enthusiasm, and independent spirit, “Guess what, though you are walking around, you are actually dead!”  At best, they would be confused; more likely they’d call you crazy. 

Dead people share two things in common.  First, they are rendered impotent or powerless.  Imagine the idiocy of trying to share the Gospel with a dead body or asking it to perform some kind of physical action.  Since the body is completely lifeless and devoid of power, how absolutely hopeless for that dead person to respond to any instruction or appeal.  

A second characteristic is corruption.  If you’ve ever been around a dead body of any sort, you know that it always deteriorates.  In the story of Lazarus (John 11), by the time Jesus arrives, since he had been dead for four days, there is a bad odor.  That is another pungent mark of death—corruption. 

So then, what are the implications of Ephesians 2:2 and why are they important? (i.e., regarding temptation, evangelism, etc.).  One major implication is a spiritual battle that is taking place in our lives even if we do not see it with our physical eyes.  Apart from Christ, we are slaves to Satan/sin. Satan is the author of that proud, carnal disposition that rules in the hearts of men. We need to acknowledge the spiritual opposition and understand that apart from the power of the Holy Spirit, fighting sin and understanding the gospel are impossible.

In conclusion, given that we all share in the sinful nature, take some time, as you start this day of rest, to reflect on your desires and thought life to keep away from sinning against God.

Prayer:   Thank You, Father, that You dare to tell me the truth even though I don’t want to hear or acknowledge it.  And thank You that You don’t leave me in this hopeless state but that You provide a way out through the love that you demonstrated in Your Son, Jesus Christ.  It is your infinite grace that enables me to receive Your solution to the human problem of sin.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 6-7

February 19, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 14, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“The Absolute Necessity of Refreshing Others While Being Refreshed Yourself”

Philem. 1:7

“Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.”

Prov. 11:25b

“Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”

I still remember a young man whom I briefly saw on the first day of class at a Christian college that we were attending in 1983.   When it was his turn to introduce himself, he said, “I am here to infiltrate the students to sell drugs.”  To the startled class, he quickly added, “Actually, I want to be a youth pastor”; shortly thereafter, he took his own life.  He wrote in his suicide note: “I know God loves me but I don’t know if anyone else does.”  

In yesterday’s QT based on this verse, we clearly saw how God’s extraordinary love for the undeserved was demonstrated through the sacrificial death of his Son on our behalf.  Apparently, the young man who took his own life saw the same; he, however, didn’t have anyone who refreshed his heart through loving him, thereby leaving him joyless and discouraged.  If the apostle Paul, a fearless man totally committed to the Lord, needed the love of brothers to be refreshed and encouraged, how much more do we, often mired in self-inflicted problems, need the same!

It was a lonesome time for me as I became a father just after turning 30; having left a youth pastor position to plant a church, I was uncertain about the step.  Then late one night, I opened the door after hearing a knock, and to my surprise, I saw two men whom I used to serve together, standing there holding several bags of food.  Not only did they refresh my heart, they also filled my stomach!  They gave me great joy and encouragement to begin the next day with hope.   

Perhaps, you need that kind of love.  And may God grant that today!  Maybe the Lord wants you to refresh the hearts of others; obey Him.

Prayer: Dear Lord, I want to love others as you have shown it to me, but I let my selfishness and busyness get in the way.  Please help me to be less narcissistic and less busybody so that I can do what’s really important before your eyes.  Fill me with your Spirit so that I may do all things for your glory.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 5


Lunch Break Study

Read 2 King 4:8-10, 13:One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there, who urged him to stay for a meal. So whenever he came by, he stopped there to eat. 9 She said to her husband, ‘I know that this man who often comes our way is a holy man of God. 10 Let’s make a small room on the roof and put in it a bed and a table, a chair and a lamp for him. Then he can stay there whenever he comes to us’. . . . Elisha said . . . ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?’”

Questions to Consider

  1. In what concrete way did this well-to-do woman refresh the heart of Elisha?
  2. Obviously, Elisha felt grateful; in what way did her action give him joy and encouragement?
  3. Based on her action, what does it take to actually love someone according to the way she did it?

Notes

  1. Instead of a temporary visit, her action enabled Elisha to extend his stay in the privacy of his own room.  As someone who stayed in many Mexican houses while traveling, I can really appreciate what she did for this prophet.  I once stayed in a room with a few of my students that had a torn curtain for a door—I could neither prepare nor relax.  My heart may have been refreshed but not my body!
  2. Her action spoke louder than words: “Prophet Elisha, I value what you do because you are doing the Lord’s work; you are important because you are God’s servant.”  We should feel that way toward all those who serve the Lord, whether they are a big-timer like Elisha or a rookie just starting out.
  3. We must first see the need, but not everyone wants to see it since it means we are to meet that need; it may require investing time, effort and/or money.  Obviously, when more is invested to show love in a tangible manner, the greater the heart will feel refreshed.   

Evening Reflection

Did you have a chance to refresh someone today?  What happened?   Did you pass it up?  Why?  Did someone refresh you?  How did you feel?  Write about it and let’s do better tomorrow.

February 18, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by the then (2013) staff of Kairos Christian Church in San Diego, is an updated version of their blog first posted on July 25, 2013.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Not Just Any Tent!”

Psalm 78:40-55

How often they rebelled against him in the desert and grieved him in the wasteland! 41Again and again they put God to the test; they vexed the Holy One of Israel. 42 They did not remember his power— the day he redeemed them from the oppressor, 43 the day he displayed his miraculous signs in Egypt, his wonders in the region of Zoan. 44 He turned their rivers to blood; they could not drink from their streams. 45 He sent swarms of flies that devoured them, and frogs that devastated them. 46 He gave their crops to the grasshopper, their produce to the locust. 47 He destroyed their vines with hail and their sycamore-figs with sleet. 48 He gave over their cattle to the hail, their livestock to bolts of lightning. 49 He unleashed against them his hot anger, his wrath, indignation and hostility— a band of destroying angels. 50 He prepared a path for his anger; he did not spare them from death but gave them over to the plague. 51 He struck down all the firstborn of Egypt, the firstfruits of manhood in the tents of Ham. 52 But he brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the desert. 53 He guided them safely, so they were unafraid; but the sea engulfed their enemies. 54 Thus he brought them to the border of his holy land, to the hill country his right hand had taken. 55 He drove out nations before them and allotted their lands to them as an inheritance; he settled the tribes of Israel in their homes.

In this passage the psalmist recounts the story of Exodus.  The story begins with Israel in Egypt and ends in a tent.  It’s not just any tent; it’s the tent of God.  The tent implies that the one and only God has come to reside with His people.  Whereas Egypt represents bondage, the tent represents a relationship with the gracious God who liberates his people.  

The exodus event illustrates what God has already done to save his people.  It’s also a picture of what He continues to do in our lives.  God continues to free us from sin that enslaves and entangles us.  The psalmist recounts this story so that we would remember to trust God every moment we live.  God repeats the exodus event every day in our lives; every day God saves us from sin and evil; every day He sustains us.

We can be confident that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6).  When we battle the enemy, let us trust that God will rescue us.  When we are lost in our own sins, have hope, for God will save us.  Today, let’s meditate on the exodus so that we will realize that God is indeed our savior.

Prayer: Father, thank you for what you did for your people when they were in Egypt and what you  are doing for your people today.  May I remember, so that I may trust in You today and forever.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 4


Lunch Break Study 

Read James 4:13-17 (NIV): Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why does James point to the folly of making our own plans apart from God?
  2. Instead, what is the proper way in which we can respond to God’s sovereign purposes?
  3. Ask God for heavenly wisdom when facing trials and difficulties; then, firmly expect that your best wisdom will come only from Him. 

Notes

  1. James points out that the believers do not even know what will actually happen tomorrow in God’s plans. In fact, a person’s life is only a mist that appears for a little while before vanishing. Mist was a prevalent OT metaphor for the transitory.  
  2. Instead, the believers are to live a life reflective of the Lord’s Prayer with its central role for petitioning God that His will be done on earth as it is already being done in heaven. This requires believers to leave enough time to listen to God on a regular basis so that His plans can overrule ours when necessary. This way, we can distinguish divine interruptions that helps us to make “the most of every opportunity because the days are evil” (Eph 5:16).
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

In what tangible way did you sense a divine interruption today or this week? 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me not to simply make my own future plans as though I am fully in control over my own life. Instead, help me to make consistent allowances in my own life to Your sovereignty, Your interruptions, and Your purposes. Amen.