March 17, Saturday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Jasmin Izumikawa. Jasmin, a member of the Church of Southland, is currently a high school teacher.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Daniel 10:12-13

“Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom resisted me twenty-one days.”

Eph. 6:12

“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities,…and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Perseverance in prayer can be wearisome, especially when our prayers seem to be unheard and unanswered. Perhaps you have brought your prayers to the LORD, time and time again, only to hear no answer or to see no changes after. The temptation to stop praying then becomes great, but that is when we need to persevere in prayer. “Ask . . . seek . . . knock . . . and you will find and it will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). How often we may have missed an answer to our prayers because we did not persist in our prayers.

With the coming of spring, I spent a weekend planting seeds to start growing in the greenhouse. It took several hours to sort the seeds, prep the soil mixture, label each variety, and carefully place a small seed in each pot. After what I felt was a job thoroughly done, I returned a day later to the greenhouse to check on them. To my great discouragement, I found the small greenhouse had fallen to the ground, trays in disarray, and seeds drowning in a swampy puddle. Overnight, the wind had knocked down the greenhouse along with all of the newly planted seeds inside. I quickly salvaged what I could and returned the next day to plant new seeds in new soil again within a more secure greenhouse.

Perseverance in prayer reminds me of my experience with the greenhouse. I must “visit” my prayers again and again, and to see my prayers answered I must pray continuously, because we know Satan works hard to hinder our prayers from breakthrough (e.g., keeping a prayer journal may be helpful to do this).

Daniel’s prayer was answered the moment he began to pray, but the angel delivering the answer was thwarted by the enemy.

Do not lose faith as you persevere through days, weeks, months, and even years for prayers to be answered. Remember the parable of the persistent widow, through which the Lord taught us that we “should always pray and not give up” (Lk. 18:1). Soon there will be breakthrough, like seedlings from a well-watered greenhouse. Overpower the enemy with your constant prayers and wait with assurance that God delivers at the right time.

Prayer: LORD, help me to live a life of persevering prayer. I sometimes feel defeated when I see that another day goes by without change or an answer, but I trust You and believe that You will deliver the answer in the right time. The enemy may try to knock down my prayers, but I will continue to pray. I wait for You alone and I want to experience and recognize Your voice and assurance. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Judges 10-11

March 16, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Psalms 139:13-16

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

This passage often comes to mind when we think of babies. For me, I come back to this passage every time a circumstance has whispered the lie that I was unknown or insignificant. The psalmist’s words remind me of how intimately my Creator knows me and has formed me. Our God is so big and sovereign, yet He knows what each of our days will hold.

These verses took on a new light during my pregnancy, when I started to think about how that process was currently taking place in the new life within. It made me think about how each person—not just me— is known intimately by the Lord. When I think about how the Lord has created and purposed an unborn child, I am filled with awe at His sovereignty, and it gives me much comfort.

Pregnancy is a funny thing in that it is a very outwardly obvious circumstance—even strangers can observe this personal part of me and comment about it. Most of the time, I welcome people’s comments for they are funny and strikes up interesting conversations; but inevitably there is well-meaning advice that stirs up anxiety or doubt. However, God’s promise to us in this psalm reminds us how deeply we are known and cared for. In addition, He is sovereign and in control. There is no circumstance we encounter where His help and His presence is not found.

Is there a circumstance in your life today that is making you anxious? Have you taken time to remember God’s promises of who you are and who He is as your Creator?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to trust You more. Help me to see where I have built for my own glory and labored in vain. I want to depend on You. If you are dismantling something in my life, help me to see it as discipline from my Heavenly Father (Heb. 12:7). Help me to trust You as You build up a new thing in my life. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Judges 9

Lunch Break Study

Read Phil 4:6: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does Paul encourage believers to do when then are anxious?
  2. What is the result of this action according to Paul?


  1. Paul encourages believers, with thanksgiving, to pray and petition and give our requests to God. This means we come with humble hearts, thanking God, not demanding the fulfillment of our needs. At the same time, we are encouraged to be honest with our requests.
  2. When we meet with God in prayer, we are given supernatural peace that comes despite difficult circumstances, as we remember who He is and His promises.

Evening Reflection

Heavenly Father, thank You that You are so sovereign and yet You draw near to us. Thank You that you know us fully and completely, yet You choose to love us. Remind us that Your love is not earned, but is based on our position as children of God purchased by the costly blood of Jesus Christ.  When we forget this, we are tempted to be anxious and fretful. Root us again today in the promises of Your Word. Amen.

March 15, Thursday

The AMI QT Devotionals for March 15-16 are provided by Joanna Tzen.  Joanna graduated from U. Penn and currently works in Philadelphia.  She married Paul in 2014, and they attend Grace Covenant Church. They are expecting their first child any day now!


Devotional Thoughts for Today

Luke 2:25-32 

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace. 30 For my eyes have seen your salvation, 31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

Waiting is a part of life, whether it’s as simple as waiting for the bus or waiting for God to move in a particular area of our lives. Simeon was waiting to see the Messiah in his lifetime. This passage tells us he was righteous, devout, and filled with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit moved him to visit the temple courts where he saw Jesus. Verse 29 tells us Simeon was a patient man. He was an old man ready to go home to the Lord was waiting for his time to come. Once he saw Jesus, his purpose was fulfilled.

Have you ever waited with such purpose as Simeon did? I know when I find myself waiting, I get impatient, sometimes borderline hopeless, if I have waited for what I feel like is a long time. It’s easy for me to lose focus on what I am waiting for.

I currently find myself in a very different kind of waiting season. My husband and I are expecting our first child in April. There is a sense of purpose and expectancy, along with a lot of trepidation, but also joy! It’s a different kind of waiting because there is a due date in sight, but there is still the uncertainty of how life will change after the waiting ends.

I’ve often thought about prayer as birthing something into the spiritual realm. It requires waiting and trusting in God. As I count down the days until my child’s birth, I’m thinking about how my own spiritual birthing experience has prepared me to depend on God in a similar way.

Is God working in your life right now through a season of waiting? If so, how is He calling you to display the trust and focus that Simeon had in his life as he waited for the Messiah?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for loving me first (1 Jn. 4:19) when I was completely unlovable. Forgive me for the things I have put before You and trusting in others more than I trust You. Remind me of Your faithfulness. Thank you that You never let me go. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Judges 8

Lunch Break Study

Read Lam. 3:24-6: I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 25 The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does it mean in verse 24 where Jeremiah says, “The Lord is my portion”?
  2. Why does this allow Jeremiah to wait?
  3. What can be learned while waiting? Do you recall what Abraham learned about himself while waiting for the Lord to deliver on His promise 25 years after it was made (Gn. 12:4, 21:5)?


  1. This refers to the territories that the tribes of Israel had. The Levites did not have a territory and the Lord was their portion. Jeremiah understands, in the same way, that the Lord is enough for him. The Lord is his security and his provision, much more so than anything that is physical.
  2. Knowing that the Lord is his portion, allows Jeremiah to wait because he trusts in who the Lord is. He knows the Lord is good (v. 25) and he keeps His promises. This hope (v. 25) allows Jeremiah to wait quietly (v. 26) upon the Lord.
  3. Abraham tries to fulfill God’s promise through his own human strategy: first, after waiting for 10 years he simply assumes that his servant Eliezar would be his inheritor (Gn. 15:2-3); then later he marries another woman who gives birth to Ishmael whom God rejects as the fulfillment of the promise (Gn. 21:10). What does this show about Abraham, the so-called the father of faith? No one has an unwavering great faith in God; that is to say, if we are to have great faith in Him, it will be the result of falling on our faces many times because of our lack of patience while waiting on God. As God was gracious to Abraham whenever he felt short, thereby never abrogating the promise made to him, it is through God’s infinite grace that we learn to trust Him and His goodness.

Evening Reflection

Lord, thank You that You walk with us in every season, particularly in times of waiting. The truth is that all of our waiting pales in comparison to waiting for Jesus. Fortunately for us, Jesus is already here. In every moment of waiting, may we have much joy and peace, because we understand the Messiah has already promised and secured for us our greatest need—a relationship with the Heavenly Father that can never be broken.

March 14, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Habit of Inquiring”

1 Samuel 23:1-12

Now they told David, “Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors.” 2 Therefore David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.” 3 But David’s men said to him, “Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” 4 Then David inquired of the Lord again. And the Lord answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.” 5 And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. 6 When Abiathar the son of Ahimelech had fled to David to Keilah, he had come down with an ephod in his hand. 7 Now it was told Saul that David had come to Keilah. And Saul said, “God has given him into my hand, for he has shut himself in by entering a town that has gates and bars.” 8 And Saul summoned all the people to war, to go down to Keilah, to besiege David and his men. 9 David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest, “Bring the ephod here.” 10 Then David said, “O Lord, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. 11 Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O Lord, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the Lord said, “He will come down.” 12 Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the Lord said, “They will surrender you.

Twenty-two years ago, when my boyfriend Kirt (now my husband) informed me that he was coming to visit me in Taiwan with the intention of marrying me, my immediate thought was to pray and to call my college professors Dr. Gray and Dr. Charalambakis.  They both knew me well through three plus years of college and also got to know Kirt when we began dating. Being the only Christian in my family then, I valued their counsel and blessing above my own mother’s approval and blessing, before I could move forward with the relationship. I didn’t fully trust myself with the decision, and I wanted confirmation on what I was hearing from God. Because of their genuine love for me and their solid witness of having an intimate relationship with Jesus and a Christ centered marriage, I knew I could trust them.

God described King David in Acts 13:22 as a man after His own heart.  When our church was reading through 1 & 2 Samuel, one repeating phrase that caught my attention was: “David inquired the Lord” (1 Sam 23:2,4,12; 30:8; 2 Sam 2:1; 5:23). I believe David became a man after God’s own heart because through the years, he developed a spiritual discipline to depend on the Lord through prayer.  He took time to lay his concerns before God, seek His direction, wait for a clear answer, and then take action according to what he heard from God. His discipline formed a lifelong habit and became a foundational core of his character.

In our postmodern age, it’s so easy to follow after our own plans and expect God to stamp His blessings upon our plans by orchestrating events to line up according to our liking.  When things do not go as we expected, we easily turn against God in anger, disillusionment, and in extreme cases, abandon our faith all together.

May we be reminded once again that a man’s life is not his own (Jer. 10:23). The steps of a good man are directed by the Lord (Ps. 37:23).  In order for God to direct our steps, we must take the time to inquire Him through prayer. And we must remember that prayer is a two-way relationship: we don’t just tell God what we want and what we would like for Him to do for us. Take time to ask God what is on His heart for you for this particular situation, and to help you to see things through His perspective.  Wait to hear from Him and make necessary adjustments, or take proper actions to carry out His will.

Prayer:  Draw us near You, Lord, and tune our ears to hear Your voice, so we might walk accordingly. Let us taste and see the sweetness and goodness of Your very presence and wise counsel. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Judges 7

Lunch Break Study

Read Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.

Questions to Consider

  1. What are some of the burdens or needs you are carrying?
  2. What makes trusting God so hard to do?
  3. Have you taken these burden before the Lord and ask for His help?


  1. Jot them down and then take some time to meditate on God’s truth and promise.
  2. If we are really honest, it is fear—that God may take you to another direction. The only way to overcome that is to trust in His goodness, that He does what is always best for you.
  3. Pray this: “Holy Spirit, would you please use this verse to cultivate in me the habit of turning all my concerns into prayer throughout the day?”

Evening Reflection

Did you notice the difference it made by simply casting your cares upon Him and rest in His love and provision for you?  Take a moment to offer Him a simple prayer of gratitude for His constant love and care for you.

March 13, Tuesday

The AMI QT Devotionals from March 11-13 are provided by Mei Lan Thallman.  Mei Lan is originally from Taiwan and a graduate of Asbury College and Asbury Theological Seminary (M.A.) in Kentucky.  She is the wife of Pastor Kirt, who serves at Grace Covenant Church (Philadelphia).  They have two children, Nate (14) and Naomi (12).

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Test of Leadership”

1 Samuel 15:17-26  

Samuel said, “Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. 18 And he sent you on a mission, saying, ‘Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; wage war against them until you have wiped them out.’ 19 Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?” 20 “But I did obey the Lord,” Saul said. “I went on the mission the Lord assigned me. I completely destroyed the Amalekites and brought back Agag their king. 21 The soldiers took sheep and cattle from the plunder, the best of what was devoted to God, in order to sacrifice them to the Lord your God at Gilgal.” 22 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.” 24 Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned. I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the men and so I gave in to them. 25 Now I beg you, forgive my sin and come back with me, so that I may worship the Lord.” 26 But Samuel said to him, “I will not go back with you. You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you as king over Israel!”

One challenge of teenage parenting is how to handle selective hearing and obedience.  When I ask my teenagers to put their iPhones away, they usually respond with selective hearing— meaning, they act like they do not hear me.

In today’s text, we see that God chose Saul to be the king over Israel. Saul rose to kingship overnight from a nobody to the first king in Israel’s history. The limelight of kingship soon revealed many flaws in his character.  Essentially, the core of his character failed under the pressure of leadership. The most important test of Saul’s leadership was his obedience to God’s instructions. In 1 Sam, 13:8-12, when Samuel showed up later than expected, Saul gave in to circumstantial and people pressure and took matters into his own hands to perform a priestly job that was outside of his responsibility as a king.  In 1 Sam. 15:17-26, he disobeyed God’s instructions again and attempted to justify his selective obedience to the prophet. Through his examples, we see that partial obedience in God’s eyes equals disobedience. Therefore, God could not trust Saul to carry out His will for the nation of Israel, and God was grieved that He appointed Saul to be King (1 Sam. 15:35).

Our obedience matters a great deal to God. Do we trust Him enough to obey Him at the risk of losing face, reputation, or popularity?  Many of us dream about doing great things for the Lord; but the fulfillment of that dream begins with where we are now in our home, school, work, and church. Are we dependable and trustworthy to diligently and responsibly carry out the tasks that are entrusted under our care?  If not, how can God entrust us with bigger responsibilities?

We must set our mind to please God over pleasing people. In both instances stated above, Saul heard and understood God’s instructions to wait for Samuel and destroy all of the enemy, including their livestock. Instead of leading the Israelite army to please God by their total obedience, he succumbed to the pressure of pleasing his soldiers over God.

May we learn from Saul’s example and tune our ears to hear God’s word and train our heart to respond in total obedience in all circumstances. Small acts of obedience build our character and get us ready for bigger tasks requiring more obedience.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please forgive me for grieving Your heart by my selective hearing and partial obedience.  When Your Spirit prompts me to forgive, go out of my way to serve, or be the first to apologize, help me to quickly respond and obey.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Judges 6

Lunch Break Study

Read Hebrews 3:7-9: Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What does it mean to harden our hearts toward God’s voice?
  2. How does disobedience lead to unbelief and rebellion?
  3. Has the Lord been saying something in your heart that you need to heed to, but you haven’t responded? Today is always the best time to comply.


  1. Though this can happen in several ways, one of them is by not abiding by what is clearly commanded in Scripture, because doing so will cut in on your profit and/or fun.
  2. Disobeying God today makes disobeying God tomorrow that much easier. Proverbs 29:1 says (NIV), “A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.” Each time a person rejects God’s call for repentance, his or her heart gets hardened, which eventually would prompt God’s discipline (Heb. 12:5-11).
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

Lord, please reveal to me specific areas of my life where I have compartmentalized hearing the truth.   In what ways have I been hardening my heart by refusing to do what I know is the right thing to do?

March 12, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals from March 11-13 are provided by Mei Lan Thallman.  Mei Lan is originally from Taiwan and a graduate of Asbury College and Asbury Theological Seminary (M.A.) in Kentucky.  She is the wife of Pastor Kirt, who serves at Grace Covenant Church (Philadelphia).  They have two children, Nate (14) and Naomi (12).

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Underdog Champions”

Hebrews 12:1-3

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Super Bowl 2018 marked the history of Philadelphia for winning its very first Super Bowl championship. This memorable win had a dramatic story of its own.  The Philadelphia Eagles was the underdog team who fought their way up as the season progressed. Two games prior to the NFL championship, their star quarterback, Carson Wentz, tore his ACL and joined mounting casualties of injured key players out of the season.  At the Super Bowl, they played against the legendary five-time reigning Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots and their super undefeated quarterback, Tom Brady. The Eagles’ backup quarterback, Nick Foles, faced the pressure calmly and courageously led the team with undaunted grit toward the epic win of 44 to 33.

The city of Philadelphia was ecstatic over the Eagles victory.  An estimated number of 700,000 fans—including people I know—traveled near and far to stand in the bitter cold, just to take part of the historical victory parade. People had a genuine personal identification with the team’s unrelenting tenacity to overcome setbacks, doubts, and obstacles. They were all so proud of their team.

All of us can relate with feeling like an underdog, facing life’s many challenges, unexpected turns, adversities, losses, and failures. The Philadelphia Eagles showed us there is great power when people pull together as a unified team to overcome the insurmountable odds against them.

In Hebrews 12:1-3, I envision a long parade lined up with heaven’s great hall of famers, the unsung champions of faith, along with our loved ones or mentors who have gone before us, cheering us on from heavenlies to not give in to the temptation of giving up—especially when life’s obstacles make us feel like an underdog.   They tell us to keep pressing on for Jesus with tenacity and live a life worthy of the gospel, one moment at a time, one day at a time, and to confidently trust in God’s ability and faithfulness to help us become the champions of faith that He desires us to be.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for being my Savior, Redeemer and Lord.  Thank You that I am saved to participate and partner with You in the ongoing redemptive work of the Father. Empower me to keep standing firm in faith and in Your truth so that I may not be given to fear.  Thank You that I am already a winner in Christ. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Judges 5

Lunch Break Study

Read Hebrews 11:1-7: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2 For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3 By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible 4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. 5 By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. 7 By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith. 8 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. 9 By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is one common characteristic that the people listed in Hebrews 11 shared?
  2. Read Hebrews 11:6. In what areas of your life do you need to apply more faith?
  3.  How does faith in God change your perspective on life?


  1. These were ordinary underdogs of the world, empowered by faith in God to conquer staggering circumstances.
  2.  We need to daily put on the glasses of faith to have the right perception and interaction with the world around us.
  3. Life does not center around me but on God.  The main purpose of my life is to know Him and glorify Him with my being and doing.

Evening Reflection

Take time to remember the people God has used in your life to point you to have a personal relationship with God. Ask God for grace and power to pass on the legacy of faith to the people in your circle of influence.

March 11, Sunday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Mark 2:23-28 (ESV)

One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

Many Christians today consider the Sabbath to be an archaic, obsolete regulation that is out of touch with our busy and competitive work environments—not realizing that the Sabbath was designed exactly for this reason.  For a moment in our week, we can allow God to remind us that our lives belong securely in His hands—that ultimately, we are not the authors of our own success, and we can stop striving for that unreachable goal.  The problem that we find is that many of us look at church not as a place of rest but just another place to strive.  We do this by reducing the Sabbath to just another obligation that we need to fulfill in order to prove that we are good Christians.  This is what the Pharisees were guilty of, so Jesus tells them: “Man wasn’t made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man.”  In other words, God doesn’t require the Sabbath for His benefit but for our own.

One of the great benefits, for those of us who are committed to a Sabbath rest, is the flourishing of our relationships.  All Christian fellowship is dependent on cycles of rest, because you cannot establish deep relationships if you are otherwise consumed by your work and your ambitions.  It’s amazing how much of a difference rest can make in our relationships with one another.  The Sabbath was designed to intentionally put enough space in our lives, so that we could enjoy the relationships God has given us.   But knowing the rich benefits of the Sabbath is still not enough motivation for many of us to take the rest that we need.

Unless you live with a deep sense of freedom, you won’t pursue the rest that your soul is longing for.  As many of us think about our schedules and our future success, there doesn’t seem to be any other option but to continue this frantic pace.  There are many factors that contribute to these feelings: In this economy, job security is a major concern.  There are hundreds of people waiting to take our jobs if we don’t do well.  Technology is another culprit. We now have the capacity to work anywhere and at anytime—meaning, we don’t have the luxury of clocking out.  Finally, sociologists tell us that for the first time in human history, we now have a society that determines personal identity and worth based almost completely on achievement.  The traditional value of having your identity linked to your family is something that has essentially disappeared

For all of these reasons and more, many of us feel trapped by our work.   One of the things that Jesus did so well in his interactions with people was to identify the things that enslaved them.  Christianity—more than any other religion—emphasizes the recovery of human freedom.  This connection between freedom and rest is most clearly revealed in Deuteronomy 5:15: in instituting the Sabbath, God tells the Israelites, “Remember you were slaves in Egypt and the Lord your God brought you out with a mighty hand; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.”  The Sabbath was given to the people of God as a reminder of their freedom.  And whether your master is Pharoah, corporate America, or your own ambition, the results are exactly the same—you feel like you have no control over your time and work.  That is the bottom line definition of what is means to be enslaved.

In every age and culture, the most dangerous master is the unrelenting lure of success and wealth.  The nature of man can’t help but base his identity on these things that are so artificial and fleeting.  Unfortunately, we are often driven by this master, not realizing the negative impact it has on our lives.  By realizing God’s loving intention for the Sabbath, we can prevent this self-induced bondage and learn how to live life in all its abundance.

Prayer:  Father, we confess that none of Your commands are burdensome or restrictive.  Everything You teach us is meant for our good and for our freedom.  Help us to learn what it means to rest in You, by observing the Sabbath and keeping it holy.  As we cultivate this discipline, may we experience the renewing effect of the Sabbath on our body, soul, and mind.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Judges 4

March 10, Saturday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Mark 2:13-17

He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 15 And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

In this passage, we see Jesus calling Levi—better known to us as Matthew, the author of the first Gospel—to be one of His disciples.  The first thing we learn about this man is his occupation, that he is a tax collector.  Now, as much as we might dislike taxes and tax collectors, the typical Jew would have had a bitter hatred for tax collectors—especially if they were one of their countrymen.  And this hatred would have been justified because tax collectors were employees of the occupying Roman Empire and their governors.  The Jews absolutely hated Roman control over their land, and so collecting taxes for the Romans would have been viewed as a traitorous act.  Therefore, the only people who would be willing to take such a job would have been those who were desperate for money and already outcasts of society.  If you have already been rejected by society, what does it matter if you are cast out even further?  At a certain point you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by betraying a society that has already betrayed you.   Why Matthew chose to become a tax collector, we don’t know, but we do know that he was very comfortable being around other “sinners.”

For these reasons, it is amazing that Jesus called this man to “follow him,” and to make him one of His leaders.  There are only two call narratives in the Gospel of Mark: the first is the calling of two pairs of brothers, Simon and Andrew, James and John.  It’s clear why Mark mentions these particular men because three of them would go on to form the nucleus of Jesus’ ministry.  But after that, there is no mention of how the other eight men were called—except for Levi.  And so what does this tell us?  There is something significant about the calling of Mathew, because it is one thing to make disciples of fisherman, and a totally different thing to make a tax collector a disciple.  There is nothing morally objectionable about being a fishermen—you might not be the most educated person or have any sort of position in society but can still be a respectable person.  But a tax collector has lost all respectability and has become an outcast of society; no respectable religious leader would have kept company with such a person. But we see here that Jesus not only keeps company with such people, but He makes them disciples and identifies with them.

Jesus goes on to have dinner with Matthew and his band of “sinners.”  This group would have included adulterers, prostitutes, thieves, and others on the fringe of society.  By having dinner with them, Jesus was extending a hand of friendship to this group. Jesus is the friend of sinners and He longs to dine with us. When Mark wrote the description of this dinner, he used the Greek word katakeisthai, which is a far more formal and luxurious term than the usual meaning of the word “dinner.”  This was not a group of friends getting together for an informal gathering. Rather, Matthew would have taken out the best of his silverware and cooked the most expensive of foods.  The better term here might be the word “banquet,” because I believe it’s safe to assume that in this dinner, Mark saw a symbol of the great Messianic banquet at the end of age, when all sinners will be gathered together with Christ for a wedding feast.  And at the feast of heaven, there will be people that we will not expect to be there, occupying the seats of honor.  Perhaps that homeless person that you drive by everyday, who struggled all his life to maintain his faith in the midst of poverty and dementia, will be seated at a place of great honor.  Perhaps sitting next to you will be former drug addicts, prostitutes, and others who were lost, but somehow they were found and gave their lives to the Lord.   We can all look forward to the day when every sinner invited to the banqueting tables of God will rejoice with their Savior.  What a glorious day that will be!

Prayer:  Father, we are forever grateful that You call sinners to Yourself and that You sent Your Son to be the friend of sinners.   We acknowledge that it is by Your grace that all are saved and not by our own righteousness.  Though we didn’t deserve the love that was shown to us on the Cross, help us to receive it.  We look forward to the day when we sit with our Savior and dine with Him.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Judges 2-3

March 9, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Mark 2:1-12 (ESV)

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

In this passage, Jesus gives the crowd physical evidence of His spiritual authority to forgive sin.  But in order to prove to the religious leaders and skeptics that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sin, He commands the paralyzed man to rise up and pick up his mat.  From man’s perspective, we would conclude that it is far more difficult to command a physical healing, because you can’t prove if someone’s sins are forgiven.  However, from God’s perspective, the forgiveness of sin comes at a far greater price and is a much more difficult thing—something only God can do.

The physical healing, in this case, is a sign and evidence of the spiritual healing.  I realize that not all cases of divine forgiveness are going to be evidenced by such a dramatic sign, but, at the same time, I do believe that there should be at least some sort of physical evidence.  It seems impossible to receive true forgiveness and not walk in greater joy, deeper conviction of sin, and heartfelt love for Christ.  The very words of Jesus teach us that those who have been forgiven much, love much.

We dare not become like these scribes who doubted and questioned whether or not Jesus has the authority to forgive sin.  The world is okay with Christianity—as long as we stay within the boundary of our own morals and ethics.  Some years ago, I was talking with a co-worker about Buddhism; he was sharing with me about man’s need to love one another, and how we should be kind to those who are our enemies. I was thinking how much this sounds like the Sermon on the Mount; and it seemed so tempting to believe that both Christianity and Buddhism are both valid expressions of faith based on their ethical teaching.  However, the fundamental difference between these world religions is that Buddha came to provide enlightenment, whereas Christ came with the authority to forgive sin.  Anyone can offer you enlightenment—you just have to be an insightful teacher—but only God can forgive sin.  Of all the leaders of the world religions, only Christ claimed the power to forgive our sins; and He proved it not only through this miracle but through His death and resurrection.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for bearing our sin on the cross.  By the power of Your resurrection, we believe that all our sins have been forgiven and that we no longer have to live in guilt and shame.  Teach us how to live in the freedom that You purchased for us and to walk in Your forgiveness, forgiving others as You have forgiven us.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Judges 1

Lunch Break Study

1 John 1:5-10(ESV)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does it mean to walk in darkness?
  2. What does it mean to walk in the light?
  3. Why is it a matter of justice for God to forgive our sins as we confess?


  1. In the apostle John’s writings, darkness goes beyond matters of morality and ethics but refers to the condition of death that sin causes. Therefore, walking in darkness is a state where there is no sensitivity or guilt in connection to sin.  Those who say that they have no sin are prime examples of those who are walking in darkness.  People who sin continually with no remorse or thought of repentance should also be considered to be walking in darkness, because their hearts have not been made alive to the reality of sin.
  2. In contrast, walking in the light simply means walking in the fullness of life that has been secured by Christ. As John writes in his Gospel, Christ is the source of life and that life is the light of men.  Those who walk in this light are being cleansed of their sin by the blood of Jesus.  In other words, this light overcomes the sin in our lives by causing us to be sensitive and repentant over these wrongs.
  3. We usually equate justice with judgment and punishment, not with the forgiveness of sin. But God operates on the principle of double jeopardy— meaning, once the penalty for sin has been paid, it would be an injustice to exact a second payment for that sin.  In a manner of speaking, once Christ paid for our sin on the cross, God limited Himself so that the only choice He has in response to our confession of sin is to forgive us freely.

Evening Reflection

Have you confessed your sins today and experienced His forgiveness?  Have you considered how sin robs us of the fullness of life that God intends for us?  Meditate on what it means to walk in the light, and how you can live more fully in that light.