Editor’s Note: The AMI devotionals for July 20-24 are provided by Pastor Ryun Chang.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
1 King 19:19-21: So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 21 And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.
Jimmy Johnson is the first coach to win both the Super Bowl and a college football championship. On the surface, he and Elisha shared much in common: both severed ties to their former life in pursuit of a newer challenge in life. Johnson, before joining the Dallas Cowboys, divorced his wife (his word) in order to totally dedicate himself to build a winner. As for Elisha, he got rid of everything that once meant something to him in order to follow and be mentored by the Prophet Elijah.
And it wouldn’t be too farfetched to imagine Jesus, who once commended a dishonest manager for his shrewdness in preparing for his jobless future (Lk. 16:1-13), lauding Johnson for his “reckless abandonment” to pursue a goal. Christ certainly would’ve backed Elisha’s decision, for He said, “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold . . .” (Matt. 19:29).
Ultimately, however, Jesus wouldn’t use Johnson as a poster child to show “what commitment to God” looks like since breaking one commandment (“I hate divorce” [Mal. 2:16]) to keep another is never acceptable to Him (Mk. 7:9-13). And to Elisha, Jesus would say what He told Apostle John while He hung on the cross: “‘Here is your mother.’ From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” (Jn. 19:27). Huh? Certainly, we must always follow God’s call in our lives even if it conflicts with our family obligations; that, however, does not release us from fulfilling them. Paul writes, “Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5:8). We “should . . . “practice the latter, without neglecting the former” (Matt. 23:23).
Johnson came to see the importance of family later on while coaching another NFL team when he couldn’t attend the wake of his mother in order to prepare for a playoff game; and his father had been diagnosed with cancer as well. Johnson said, “It opened up my eyes. . . . There are times when you pull back and say, ‘Be with the people that you care about. Don’t shortchange them.'” Well, don’t shortchange God either.
God, I marvel at Your goodness, especially in light of my heart’s inclination toward always doing what pleases and satisfies me. For my precious Lord of grace and mercy, I ought to follow You with “reckless abandonment.” But why am I so hesitant to follow You? Please allow events to occur in my life so that I will always keep You as my top priority in all things. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Amos 2
Lunch Break Study
Read Acts 2:46-7: And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Acts 12:12-3: When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” 12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.
Question to Consider
- In what sense did these gatherings constitute a Church?
- Note where these believers met: What does that say about what constitutes the Church?
- How can we incorporate Barna’s comments in our walk with God without giving up on the Church? How is your commitment to your local church?
- A collective group of believers was gathered to praise God, pray together and break bread (i.e., sharing sacraments and a meal afterwards).
- They met at homes as well as at the temple. Either way, it was a place where a group of believers gathered to worship and pray together—that’s the Church.
- While we meet as a corporate body at a designated time and place, individually we should seek God and do good deeds on our own—it doesn’t have to be an either/or.
Reflecting back to today, what tough choices did you face that pitted your family obligations “against” your obligations to God and His cause? How did you handle it? This isn’t an easy issue for all of us. Unless we cultivate an intimate relationship with God, we will continue to prioritize our earthly interests, however legitimate, over God’s. Pray. Ask God for discernment, encouragement and even creativity to fulfill both obligations.