Editor’s Note: The AMI QT devotionals from Jan. 1-15 are provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (Ph.D.) who is the AMI Teaching Pastor. He and Insil have been married for 28+ years and they have three children: Christy (teacher), Joshua (grad student) and Justin (college freshman). They live in Philadelphia.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
In one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Once, a theology professor and former academic dean of a Reformed seminary, who used attend my church, said to me, “There is no spiritual power in the seminaries.” So, there might be some truth to people jokingly mispronouncing “seminary” as “cemetery.” But behind the humor lies good reason: first, since the Bible is treated as a textbook to be studied in dry academic fashion, it begins to lose its luster as a sacred book “sent” from above; second, seminarians “forget” to pray while juggling a demanding course load, church responsibility and perhaps even a part-time job; third, some seminaries are so hell-bent on imposing their particular brand of systematic theology, that those students who believe it begin to disdain others who don’t. That’s being carnal, not spiritual (1 Cor. 3:1-4).
But what’s really missing is the Holy Spirit. As Luke writes, the disciples, who recently graduated from “Jesus Seminary”, were told to attain one more set of tools, spiritual gifts, from the Tool Giver, a.k.a., the Holy Spirit, who “distributes them to each one, just as he determines” (1 Cor. 12:11). But many seminaries and churches alike do not really like to talk about the Holy Spirit, and even less so spiritual gifts. Perhaps, these matters aren’t all that appealing to their pragmatic and rational mindset. But that is precisely what Jesus told his seminary graduates to attain before they venture out of Jerusalem, ostensibly to do God’s work.
I am an AMI Teaching Pastor and I’m very grateful to Pastor Keith, who called me one day in Mexico (2006) to invite me to AMI, saying, “I know you have a teaching gift that you’ve developed; so join us and be our teacher.” I hope and pray that you will have someone who recognizes and appreciates your gifts, so much so that they might even ask you to serve a certain ministerial role in the church. But, while I am happy to teach, I always pray first, at length, asking the Lord, among other things, to fill me with the Holy Spirit. To leave Him out would eventually leave me as spiritually dead as a cemetery. Stealing a line from an old American Express ad, “Don’t leave home without [Him].”
Lord, my head is full of facts, data and information, yet I am utterly powerless without the Holy Spirit. Please fill me with the Spirit so that I am empowered to say YES to your will and NO to temptations. In 2016, may I be filled with the Holy Spirit daily. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 2 Peter 1
Lunch Break Study
Read Acts 19:13-6: Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?” 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.
Mark 9:17-8, 28-9: A man in the crowd answered, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. 18 Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not”. . . . 28 After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” 29 He replied, “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
Question to Consider
1. What ties the sons of Sceva and the disciples together?
2. What were the problems that led to their powerlessness?
3. We are still in the first week of the New Year. Perhaps you’re tired of powerless Christian life: always giving into even the slightest temptation. Devise a plan to turn that around. What could be your first step?
1. Both tried to do something good—setting free demonized people—but they failed because they didn’t have what it took: the power of God.
2. The sons of Sceva obviously underestimated what or whom they were dealing with. With respect to the disciples, Jesus’ answer to their inquiry —“Why couldn’t we”—indicate that prayerlessness is tantamount to powerlessness.
3. Get your prayer life going: daily, substantial in length and alone with God (And don’t post this on your FB; for many it could even be a motive for doing spiritual things). There is no substitute: “This kind can come out only by prayer.”
Haven’t we heard enough sermons on prayer? Do you pray consistently, every day? If that’s too much, then even every other day, but meaningfully? See it this way: the Spirit will lie dormant in your life unless you pray for his involvement. There are many exceptions (where the Holy Spirit does his “thing” independent of what we do or don’t do), but otherwise it should be the normative way to look at the relationship between prayer and the movement of the Holy Spirit in your life. So pray.