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
Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Luke 24:19-21, 25
They replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. . . . 25 [Jesus] said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
A pastor’s worst nightmare is being told how ineffective his sermon is, and that’s what recently happened to a pastor to whom this college sophomore said, “I’ve gotten nothing out of your sermons.” To him, the problem lies squarely with the pastor’s alleged inability to preach or teach well; but that may not necessarily be the case.
Now, Jesus was called, “Rabbi” (teacher), for a reason: so exceptional was his teaching that “the people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching—and with authority!’” (Mk. 1:27). What makes a good teacher shouldn’t be so much that he is charismatic or entertaining, but that the students actually learn. To that end, Jesus was off the chart but even his teaching couldn’t change the long held Messianic expectation by the Jews that was simply wrong. Seeing the resurrected Christ, the Israelites wondered whether Jesus would drive out the hated Romans from the holy land and then “restore the kingdom to Israel.” They acted as though they never heard Jesus say, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation . . . because the kingdom of God is within you’” (Lk. 17:21).
I’m not sure how my pastor friend responded to his critic, but Jesus certainly didn’t apologize; instead he said, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” This is to say, when you aren’t getting much from a sermon, you shouldn’t automatically assume that the problem lies with the speaker; it could be your critical attitude or arbitrary criteria, or both.
Once, a student asked a renowned seminary professor how he could get blessed by a sermon given by someone who knows far less than him. His answer: “As long as he reads even one verse from the Scripture, that’s enough to be blessed.” I would have told the sophomore, “While I work on my sermon, you should work on having a childlike heart, for Jesus said, “Father. . . you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Matt. 11:25). The next time you go to church, don’t leave home without a childlike heart—it will improve your hearing.
Mighty God, I lift up my voice and hands unto You in worship and adoration. I love You with all my heart! May your kingdom, which resides in my heart, grow and prosper in 2016 and let it be shown through my being more like childlike whenever I encounter your precious word. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 2 Peter 2
Lunch Break Study
Read Mark 4:14-8: “The farmer sows the word. 15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
Question to Consider
- What is the gist of this parable? When it comes to God’s word bearing fruits in our lives, what is the most significant factor?
- What factors curtail or diminish our ability to listen, understand and then live by God’s word?
- What do you think is meant by “good soil?” Describe it. Is that the kind of attitude you have?
- The “word” is fine; the problem is often the attitude we bring when we counter God’s word, whether it be reading the Bible or hearing someone teach or preach. Our attitude makes a world of difference between being blessed or critical; being receptive or closed.
- First, not having any root indicates someone who is in a perpetual state of having a shallow understanding of the Bible; when some inconvenient thing occurs, he bails out. Second, seed sown among thorns suggests an inability or unwillingness to adequately handle the worries of life and excessive desires for the things of the world. So, when the pastor preaches against loving the world, it will be easy for someone with this problem to blame him for yelling or being boring.
- As it was said in the morning devotion, a childlike heart: someone who is willing to submit to the truth no matter who says it; someone who won’t reject the entire sermon on account of a few disagreements or dislikes.
This is a test: Do you still remember any part of the sermon you heard this past Sunday (I am assuming that you went)? What is it? Hebrews 2:1 says, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” When all the hours spent on listening to sermons are added at the end of our life, it may be a matter of years! That’s some investment. Shouldn’t you be a wise investor? So improve your hearing. Ask God for strength and discipline.