December 19, Wednesday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Charles Graham. Charles, who serves at Kairos, is currently studying at Talbot School of Theology to prepare himself for a life of service and ministry.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Loving God with our Minds”

Read Luke 10:27 (ESV)

“And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’”

The story is all too common. A child is raised in a loving Christian home, grows up in the church, develops deep and close relationships with the congregation and when the time comes, leaves home for college. However, in school, the young student fills one of his elective slots with a religions class where the professor lays into Christianity, outlining its contradictions, borrowed mythology and overwhelmingly negative sociological impact. He is never the same again. He comes home after his first year with more questions than a busy parent or pastor cares to answer, and slowly but surely, the once Christ-grounded child loses his faith and turns away from the church.

When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus answers: “Love God with all of their being and love their neighbor as themselves.” While the average person does well to love the Lord with the first three items, the tragedy of the hypothetical above can become a reality if we fail to love God with our minds. JP Moreland (Talbot School of Theology) writes, “That the mind is the crucial component in the spiritual journey cannot be accurately denied.” Truly there is something to it, as an estimated 70% of college students leave the faith. Institutions of higher learning are a wonderful place of knowledge and exchanging of ideas, but with the marginalization of the Christian worldview so great, it is more critical than ever that church leaders teach their people how to love God fully, minds included.

So what does loving God with your mind look like? A long-lost spiritual discipline is study. Pastor Peter (Kairos) describes the spiritual disciplines as the “wax on, wax off” parts of the faith—meaning, performing them seemingly serves no purpose until the occasion in which they’re useful arises. While not everyone needs to think through the faith to the degree of someone like C. S. Lewis, it is vital that, at minimum, we keep ourselves grounded in the Word while seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit. By engaging the faith with our minds, we give the Spirit another piece of ourselves to step into and work His wonders. The Holy Spirit can teach us how to speak of Jesus to unbelievers, how to disciple our immediate and church family members and even defend the faith, if necessary, from opposition. Just as we have done so, so easily with our hearts, let’s give our minds over to the Lord as well. Let’s love Him with all of our being, as commanded.

Prayer: Father, Your Word and Your truth have been under attack since the beginning. We know You are there, we feel You and we praise You. Please help us to love You fully, with everything we are. Holy Spirit, we ask that You move in, and shape our minds to Your will. All for Your glory. In Jesus’ name, amen.


Lunch Break Study

Read Proverbs 1:1-7:

To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, 3 to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; 4 to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth— 5 Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, 6 to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. 7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Questions to consider

  1. What is the beginning of knowledge?
  2. What is King Solomon’s goal(s) in writing these proverbs?
  3. Which of King Solomon’s goals would you like to work towards in your life?

Notes

  1. The beginning of knowledge is “the fear of the LORD” (Prov. 1:7). King Solomon goes on to note only a fool rejects wisdom or instruction, thereby advocating for the spiritual discipline of study.
  2. In general, King Solomon seeks to increase and refine his vast knowledge and gift of godly wisdom in order to best serve God and His people. I am particularly invested in verses four and five, as I hope to be able to help equip fellow Christians moving forward.
  3. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

Romans 12:2 reads, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” According to Moreland, the Greek word Paul uses here is nous, which means “the intellect, reason, or the faculty of understanding,” (Moreland 2012: 65). What changes can you pray for God renew your mind with?

December 18, Tuesday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Tina Hsu.  Tina, a graduate of Biola University and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), currently serves as a staff at the Church of Southland, Anaheim, California.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Fasting That Produces Hope”

Luke 2:36-38

And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers. At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

When Joseph and Mary brought their child Jesus to Jerusalem to fulfill the required offering to the Lord, Anna, the prophetess, recognized the significance of this child, and perceived that he was central to the redemption of Jerusalem. Having been at the right place in the temple at the right time, and without any former announcement to her, Anna was under God’s divine orchestration to witness the arrival of the Messiah in the child, Jesus Christ. Thus, she praised God and shared about the child to those around her.

Whenever I read through the Gospel of Luke, I am always amazed at these few verses, and how three sentences speak volumes about Anna’s character and focus. As a person who faced heartache and loss, she didn’t live a life of regret; instead, she looked forward to God’s promises and lived richly in hope. In this short passage, we can see Anna’s single-minded devotion to the Lord in her many years of widowhood. Fasting and prayer had been a regular focus. The beginning of her fasting may have stemmed from facing the loss of her spouse and navigating the path of widowhood. It may have been an act of mourning and the pouring out of her soul to God. However, it didn’t end in her own life circumstances, but her expression of piety through fasting and prayer was larger than herself. It was a way of accessing hope and practicing patient waiting for Israel’s salvation. Considering that meals were of social significance in her time and culture, regular fasting meant a departure from the norms, a way of asserting that something is not yet complete and to hope in God to bring about His redemption.

The end of the year involves busyness, travel, holiday gatherings or much needed rest. While there are many praises to be sung, some of us may sense unease as we look back in 2018, and recognize goals that were not met, unfinished business, or expectation that ended in disappointment. This morning, allow God’s Word to invite you to access hope again in the Lord through setting apart time to pray and increments of time (or days) to fast. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

Prayer: Dear Father, thank You that You are the God of hope and You are the lifter of my head. Guide me to look at my circumstances through the eye of faith and renew my strength to wait upon You to reveal Your good and perfect plans. In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Proverbs 20


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 9:14-15: Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Why did the disciples of John approach Jesus with this question about fasting?
  2. Who is the bridegroom and who are the attendants?
  3. What is Jesus implying in his response? What does Jesus expect of His disciples?

Notes

  1. During that time, a teacher (or rabbi) was responsible for the disciplines of his disciples. Religious groups such as the Pharisees commonly fasted twice a week, though the Law only required the Jews to fast on the Day of Atonement. The disciples of John were probably sincerely curious as to why Jesus, being a teacher, seemed to avoid this spiritual practice altogether for His disciples.
  1. Jesus is referring to an analogy that He is the bridegroom, the attendants are His disciples, and the wedding feast (celebration) is the present time in which He has arrived as the Messiah.
  1. Wedding feasts in the Jewish culture lasted several days, and it was crucial as part of the culture for rabbis to pause their instruction and acts of mourning to observe with joy the bridal processions. Jesus is defining the appropriateness of fasting for His disciples. Before He came, and after He is “taken away,” it is appropriate and expected to fast and devote time to prayer and waiting, but while He is with His disciples, He expects His disciples to take joy at the presence of the bridegroom.

Evening Reflection

Reflect on Isaiah 40:31: “But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”

Tonight, as you reflect on God’s promise for those who wait patiently, write out or say a prayer expressing your desire for God’s answer to your hopes. Consider how you may position yourself to wait upon God with patience that honors Him and expect Him to reveal Himself to you in ways greater than you imagined.

December 17, Monday

Today’s AMI Devotional is written by Jin Ha Lee who serves at Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia. Jin Ha, a CPA, graduated from Drexel University and got married last month to Aerin. Congratulations!

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Holding onto Jesus”

1 Peter 1:3-7

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

As the year comes to an end, it’s a great time to reflect on the Lord. For some, it’s been a great year of spiritual growth, while for others, it’s been a slow or even discouraging year—in every case, all of our faith has been tested in some way. But what’s most likely been tested isn’t something vague about God, but very simple, clear, and powerful truths: “Does God really care about me? Is He really faithful to take care of my family? Is God’s presence really with me?”

Several years ago, I was studying for a licensing exam: I went to work, came home, ate dinner, and then studied. Rinse and repeat. Day after day. It felt so monotonous. During this time, I was also serving at our church. Remembering Matthew 6:33, I believed that if I sought God’s kingdom first, He would take care of the rest—meaning, He would allow me to pass the licensing exam. But behold, after months of studying I did not pass!

When I looked up that dreadful test result, I brushed it off at first; but as time passed, different thoughts and feelings crept in. At the heart of it, I honestly felt disappointed and almost embarrassed that I trusted in God’s promise in Matthew 6:33. Seeking God’s kingdom first didn’t mean that everything I want will fall into place. But I really wanted to pass that exam and I felt that I was doing my best to seek His kingdom first. Through this experience, I learned that I need to seek Him first and that His provisions are exactly what I need.

For the recipients of Peter’s letter, they faced intense persecution. However, Peter reminded them to hold onto the hope they had in Jesus. With faith, they were called to hold onto an imperishable heavenly inheritance when their earthly possessions were taken away.

We are called to hold onto Jesus. Growing is not just learning new things about Him, but it includes holding onto what we already know about Him. Through trials, His promises go from words we simply know, to words we live by. It will all be worth it as one day, the tested genuineness of our faith “may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ”!

Prayer: Thank You Lord for both good and trying circumstances in my life. While I covet the good times, I also know that it is through difficult and hard times that I am reminded of my weakness and the need to truly depend on You. “In wrath remember mercy” (Hab. 3:2).

Bible Reading for Today: Proverbs 19


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 3:16-19: “. . . that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Question to Consider

  1. What does Paul desire for the Ephesian church?
  2. What is one result of being strengthened by the Holy Spirit?
  3. How does this passage encourage you to hold onto Him?

Note

  1. He desires the Ephesian church to be strengthened through the Holy Spirit
  2. Being strengthened through the Holy Spirit gives us strength to understand with our brothers and sisters the greatness of His love.
  3. Personal response. For me, His love is my comfort in trials. There is so much more to His love than what I know now. Holding onto Jesus isn’t about the strength of my grip; it’s about being rooted, grounded, and strengthened through the Holy Spirit in His incredible love!

Evening Reflection

How have you been holding onto Jesus and abiding in Him? Let’s pray for times of great rest in Him the rest of this year. Let’s pray that God would use us and the brothers and sisters around us to encourage one another.

December 16, Sunday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Transformed: Part 2”

Ephesians 4:25-32 (ESV)

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

People can mistakenly think that the God of the Old Testament is different from the God of the New Testament. While they may see the Old Testament God as one who is all about rules and is like an angry and disappointed dad who is grumpy, they may see the New Testament God as one who gives grace and is always forgiving and loving. Yet this could not be further from the truth. In fact, a heretic named Marcion actually espoused this idea that the Old Testament God was different from the New Testament God, and he didn’t see the Old Testament Scripture as authoritative for Christians—this was ultimately deemed heretical. The truth is, the God of the Old Testament is the exact same God as the God of the New Testament—Jesus was the visible manifestation of the invisible God, and He came to make God known to us.

In reading these instructions and commands to the church from today’s passage, I was reminded of Exodus 20 – the Ten Commandments. Both texts give us commands of how to live life before a Holy God. It’s also worth noting that both are prefaced with our relationship with God (see yesterday’s devotional). In Exodus 20, God starts out the Ten Commandments with one simple phrase: “I am the Lord YOUR GOD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” We have to understand that the context of these commands is not simply that we should obey because of God’s power, but it is also in the context of love. God is relating to His people and saying I am going to be your God; I belong to you as you belong to me. In the same way, in the New Testament, Paul first reminds people that transformation always starts with the understanding of our new relationship with Him—and then he tells us that we are to shed off our old self and put on our new self.  We are no longer slaves to sin, but slaves to Jesus Christ. With this new found understanding of the grace we have received, only then do we see the power and ability to transform.

There is a famous scene in “Les Misérables” of Jean Valjean being apprehended for stealing the Bishop’s silver. He is brought back to the Bishop’s house, and when the Bishop opens the door and sees Jean Valjean, he greets him like a brother. Instead of accusing him of thievery, he plays it off as though the silver was given to him as a gift. He then goes on and asks why Jean Valjean did not also take the candlesticks, which could also be sold for money. The police are dumbfounded as they were certain Jean Valjean had stolen these items (which he did), but the Bishop insists that these were gifts. After the police leaves, the Bishop tells Jean that he is free to go, and he says this: “Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.”

Where, ultimately, lies the power of transformation? I believe that it’s not just behavior modification, stronger will, or even greater discipline; it lies in the heart that has understood the unfathomable grace that we have received. If you are currently struggling with transformation in your life, don’t just try harder. Lean back into the grace of God that once stirred your heart, and then press forward into becoming more like Christ!

Prayer: Father God, thank You for Your grace that sparks the change in my heart. Thank You that I have a relationship with You, and that You are transforming me as You restore the image of God in my life. May I continue to grow in a deeper understanding of Your grace in my life that propels this wonderful transformation in me. In Jesus’ Name I pray.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Proverbs 18

December 15, Saturday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Transformed: Part 1”

Ephesians 4:17-24 (ESV)

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self,[f] which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires,23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Tim Keller says this: “You can take the people out of slavery, but you can’t take the slavery out of the people easily.” He gives the example of the Israelites, whom God delivered out of Egypt in a miraculous fashion from bondage to freedom—yet somehow, the Israelites were not completely free. Even though they were no longer under the bondage of Egypt, they were still operating out of a slave mentality. It took God perhaps a few months to take the people out of slavery, but it took 40 years to take the slave mentality out of the people.

Paul constantly reminds the Ephesian Church that they are no longer the people that they once were—the enemies of God. In fact, Paul describes their “old self” as having such hardened hearts that they would not even listen to rational logic, but they gave themselves to every sinful desire of their flesh. Now, they are no longer enemies of God, but sons and daughters of God—this is a drastic and immediate identity shift. Isn’t salvation such a profound miracle? It’s pretty crazy to think about how sudden that identity change is: We go from enemy of God to friend of God, from darkness into light, from sinners into saints, etc. So we see that deliverance out of bondage is a quick process that is done by God. But after that, we see the growing pains of sanctification—the process of being transformed into the likeness of Christ. This is not an easy process, and it will last the rest of our life until we stand face to face before God.

What is important to notice in this passage is that there is an active task of putting off our old self and putting on our new self. The language Paul uses reminds us of taking off our old clothes and putting on new clothes. One commentator explained it this way: Imagine you are a prisoner and have been released from prison. You are no longer in prison, yet you continue to wear your prison clothes. How ridiculous would it be if you decided to wear prison clothes for the rest of your life?

We have stepped into our new identity as co-heirs with Christ. But we need to actively shed our old self and actively adopt our new self.  I’d like to give two encouragements to two types of people: Perhaps you are someone who has recognized that Jesus is your Savior and you’ve become a child of God, but you have not walked in this important aspect of shedding off your old self and putting on the new self. My encouragement to you is to heed the Apostle Paul’s advice to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). Perhaps you are someone who struggles to put off the old self and put on the new self, and you are discouraged that old habits seem to die hard. Let me encourage you by telling you that sanctification and transformation is a process. Who you are in 10 years is not who you are now, and as long as you are actively putting on the new self, you will see that transformation in years to come. Don’t lose hope.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for doing all of the work on the Cross. You saved me when I could not save myself. Thank You for adopting me into this family of God. I know that I am no longer bound to my old self, but You have given me the right to put on the new self. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I may live out the promise of God in my life every single day. In Jesus’ Name I pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Proverbs 16-17

December 14, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Beautiful Body of Christ”

Ephesians 4:8-16 (ESV)

Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” 9 (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? 10 He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.

Have you ever watched a basketball team play so beautifully together that they make it seem too easy? I’m a San Antonio Spurs fan and the Spurs of the past two decades have been the model for team basketball. While many teams had superstars that could dominate in stretches, the Spurs had talented yet unselfish players to complement one another so that they could play the game to perfection. The result was a sustained excellence on the court that lasted two decades.

A leadership podcast (Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast) that I recently heard stated that the most important element of an organization is . . . the people. What a surprise!  Yes, we can often be fooled into thinking that things such as the right location, abundant resources and cutting-edge technology are the most important elements, but in the end, people are indeed the most important factor to the success of an organization. And it boils to what kind of people we have: selfish or selfless.

It’s no different in the church—people are the most valuable components, and it is through unselfish believers the body of Christ is built up. This is to say, God doesn’t simply “baptize” the church with the Spirit’s fire so that it grows quickly (except in rare occasions); instead, He gives each member spiritual gifts so that they can work together to build up the church in love.

In today’s passage, we see that God has given the gift of the five-fold ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers) for the purpose of training up people in the church so that the rest of the body may realize their gifting, become adept in it, and build up the body. When each member of the body of Christ works unselfishly, the body grows.

Remember, the church was never meant to be a place for people to become spectators, but for them to become participants in the glorious task of building up the church. Your church needs you to be an active participant! Of course, you need to go about it through the right channels and with unselfish attitude, but may this be a reminder that God has given this important task of building up the church to you and me. Let’s take this seriously and be part of the exciting adventure in seeing the body of Christ grow in maturity!

Prayer: Father God, what a privilege it is that You call us to be part of the body that works together to build itself up in love. I want to be a part of that process. May You use me in whatever way You see fit; may I experience the joy of seeing Your body come into full maturity.

Bible Reading for Today: Proverbs 15


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 (ESV): For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. 21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it,25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Question to Consider

  1. In this passage, how does Paul describe the Church?
  2. Why do we need different functions within the church?
  3. What does this passage ultimately tell us to do?

Notes

  1. After describing the church as the body of Christ, the apostle Paul points out the need for different members of the body to work together for the common goal of building it.
  2. If everyone functions the same way with the same gifts and talents, the body of Christ would not be able to reach its full potential; in fact, it wouldn’t function at all.
  3. This passage instructs us to give honor to every person in the body of Christ. While functions may be different (some more glamorous than others), all members of the body of Christ have equal value. We must be watchful to care for one another equally (not just the ones that seem more important).

Evening Reflection

Have you ever thought about spiritual gifts God has given you for the building up of the body of Christ? How are you using these gifts?  Think of ways you would be able to steward these gifts for the building up of the body. I would suggest talking with the leadership in your church to see what would be appropriate for you to participate in. Let’s be participants and not just spectators as we work together to build up God’s church!

December 13, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“You’re Better Than That!”

Ephesians 4:1-7 (ESV)

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

One of the pastors that I work with likes to say, “Come on, you’re better than that,” when I do or say something dumb. Normally, this phrase has a negative connotation, but I think it can also be seen as an encouragement. When Paul says, “Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,” I can imagine him saying, “Come on, church of Ephesus, you’re better than that.”

Paul has spent quite some time laying down the groundwork for the believers to understand their identity in Christ, their relationship with God, and their relationship with one another. They are no longer strangers and aliens, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God; they are no longer divided, but they are one body, Jews and Gentiles alike; and they are all heirs in the kingdom of God—they are royalty! I want to highlight what Paul says here, because I believe that there is a need for the church to wake up and start walking in a manner worthy of our calling.

The crux of this passage is Paul’s encouragement for the church to act like a church, by loving one another and maintaining unity through peace. Where do you think he got this idea? Right before Jesus was about to be arrested, He prayed for His disciples and those that would come to believe Him—this is referred to as the high priestly prayer. He prays that the church would be one just as the Father and He are one. We know how elusive unity within the body can be. When things are going well, it’s easy to maintain peace and walk in unity, but the moment things start souring, the moment disputes arise, we see the ugliness of division and hostility towards one another.

Scripture commands us to be eager to maintain this unity and to bear with one another in love. What practical way can we do this? We can start by deliberately choosing not to be offended. We can choose to take a loss for the sake of unity. We can even choose to humble ourselves to serve others, even when they are undeserving of it. This is the high calling that the Body of Christ is called to.

Prayer: Father God, help us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling that we’ve been called to. Remind us of our identity as sons and daughters of You, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Help us to treat one another with love and respect, eager to maintain unity through peace, and bearing one another’s burdens with love. Fill us and fill our churches so that we may be one as You are one. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Proverbs 14


Lunch Break Study

Read John 17:20-23 (ESV): “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

Question to Consider

  1. Who is Jesus praying for?
  2. What does Jesus pray for the church to be like?
  3. What are ways that you could promote unity within your church? As Jesus desires the church to be one, do you also desire unity among your church (and the many churches in our midst)?

Notes

  1. Jesus is not only praying for the disciples who were there, but for all who will believe in Him through the words of the disciples. Basically, He is praying for the Universal Church – every single person who will come into a living relationship with Him and with the church.   
  2. He prays that they would be one just as the Father and He are one. This is deeply profound in that He desires the church would reflect the union that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit has, which has been a perfect union since before time existed. He mentions that this is so that the world would see how the Father sent the Son and loves His people.   
  3. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

Our passage for the morning carries an admonishment for the church of Ephesus, because they were not behaving like a church that was loving one another and maintaining unity through peace.  We also need to ask ourselves: Are we behaving like people of God? Are we walking in a manner worthy of the calling in which we have been called to? Have we responded to God’s grace and mercy towards us with gratefulness and a desire to change? May Paul’s words ring true for us today, that we would understand our identity as sons and daughters of God, and that we would begin to start walking in this identity.