June 20, Wednesday

The AMI QT Devotional Blogs from June 18-24 are provided by Helen Soh.  Helen has been attending and serving at Symphony Church for the past couple of years while studying at Gordon Conwell Seminary.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 14:10

Thus says the LORD concerning this people: “They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet; therefore the LORD does not accept them; now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.” 

In a 2015 Ted Talk called “A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit,” psychiatrist Judson Brewer talks about the relationship between mindfulness and habit. Research shows that a habit is formed when a specific behavior makes us feel good and so our brains remember it. A habit, such as snacking or smoking, is reinforced when our brains realize we are feeling bad, so we use the behavior to feel good again. Think about the way we flip open our laptops as soon as we get home or eat junk food when we’re stressed. It isn’t surprising that research supports that we aren’t very mindful or aware of what we do, better yet, why we do them.

In today’s passage, God describes the people of Israel. Firstly, He says that they “have loved to wander…” Rather than worshipping God alone, the Israelites always ended up adopting other Canaanite gods and falling into idolatry. Perhaps the Israelites wanted the best of both worlds and reap the “blessings” of following two gods. Or maybe they genuinely thought God wouldn’t deliver them from current hardships, so they felt no choice but to turn to alternatives. Regardless, we see that their natural inclination was not to remain in God, but to wander for self-satisfaction and happiness.

Secondly, the Israelites “have not restrained their feet…” In other words, the Israelites, knowing their inclinations, did not set up restrictions to prevent themselves from wandering again. This pertains to wisdom and maturity. If we know we fall into the temptation of “X” sin, why do we not take practical and faithful measures to prevent us from falling the second, third, or fourth time? Just as research showed that we easily form mindless habits, a humble look into our past shows how we can mindlessly fall into the same patterns of sin. For example, if we know we are prone to be exclusive in friendships, are there any ways we have started being exclusive in community? Today, let’s humbly assess the patterns in our life and see how we can make them more God-centered.

Prayer: You are a good Father because You not only encourage us when we mature in faith, but You also discipline us when we sin against You. Today, we recognize that You do not ignore disobedience. Help us to remember that to love You is to obey You, so fill us with your Holy Spirit to do so. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ezekiel 27


Lunch Break Study

Read Galatians 4:1-7:  I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

Questions to Consider

  1. In this passage, what happens when we receive adoption as sons of God?
  2. Sometimes we try to be better Christians merely by sinning less and doing more good things. However, the foundation of our identity is not in what we do but who we are—that is, we are already sons and daughters of God. How does that change our perspective on what it means to grow spiritually?

Notes

  1. We receive the Holy Spirit into our hearts and experience true and mature sonship to God. We no longer experience the distance that a child heir or slave would feel to the father of a household. Instead, our new hearts cry out “Abba! Father!” in our relationships to God.
  2. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

One area of our lives that we can be mindless with is our speech. James 3 talks about how our tongue can worship God but also stain or discourage the body of God. Are there any ways we talk to others (or talk about others) that have been compromising? Instead, let’s turn it around and use every opportunity to bless and build up others with our words.

June 19, Tuesday

The AMI QT Devotional Blogs from June 18-24 are provided by Helen Soh.  Helen has been attending and serving at Symphony Church for the past couple of years while studying at Gordon Conwell Seminary.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 14:7-8

The word of the LORD that came to Jeremiah concerning the drought: 2 “Judah mourns, and her gates languish; her people lament on the ground, and the cry of Jerusalem goes up. 3 Her nobles send their servants for water; they come to the cisterns; they find no water; they return with their vessels empty; they are ashamed and confounded and cover their heads. 7 “Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O LORD, for your name’s sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you. 8 O you hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble, why should you be like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night?

Last November, I ran a half-marathon for the first (and probably last) time in my life. For training, I ran at least three times a week for about two months; so by the time the race came around, I felt confident enough—even excited. I’m an idealist at heart, so although my practice runs were never fun, I thought the actual race would be exhilarating. After running the 13.2 miles, I can safely say that long-distance runs are physically strenuous every time you do them.

In our passage today, the prophet Jeremiah summarizes how the Israelites began to mourn and lament to God, as they felt the effects of a drought on their livelihood—less food, less water, less agency, etc. Prior to the famine, they had been living comfortably, offering worship to both God and false idols and remaining unphased by Jeremiah’s warnings. The drought brought forth a new response from the Israelites—one of soberness, brokenness, and desperation. But this isn’t a new story for Israel. As we know well by now, the Israelites fall away, endure hardship and are led to repentance, time and time again. Despite the pattern, our passage reads, “Judah mourns, and her gates languish; her people lament on the ground…” This reminds me that no matter the suffering, no matter the form it comes in, it hurts every time. Likewise, being led to repentance is a raw and meaningful experience every time. The process of realizing that you messed up yet again, and need God to save you again, strips you of all your pride and brings you to your knees. At the same time, it brings you to the most true and safe place, knowing that God has already forgiven you in Jesus and loves you the same.

Today, let’s remember how our track record is far from perfect, but God has been faithful to us. Let us be gracious to ourselves and others in their time of vulnerability and need, extending the same kind of love and acceptance that we have also received.

Prayer: Father, thank You for being with us through the good and the bad. As we receive Your grace time and time again, transform us to be gracious and accepting as You are. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ezekiel 26


Lunch Break Study

Read Romans 2:1-5: Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

Questions to Consider

  1. According to this passage, how is one led to repentance?
  2. Where do God’s judgment fall and why do you think that is so?
  3. In what areas of your life can you replace harshness with more kindness, forbearance, and patience?

Notes

  1. We are led to repentance after experiencing the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience. In real life, this means we go against God, but we find His patience and forgiveness, instead of His wrath, time and time again.
  2. God’s judgment falls on those who pass judgment on others while they themselves practice wrongdoings. This describes someone who is unaware or dismissive of their own wrongdoings.
  3. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

Today, we probably interacted with many different people, whether it was at work, school, or home. Are there any relationships or topics where God may be calling us to be less harsh and more open-minded and patient?

June 18, Monday

The AMI QT Devotional Blogs from June 18-24 are provided by Helen Soh.  Helen has been attending and serving at Symphony Church for the past couple of years while studying at Gordon Conwell Seminary.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 13:15-17

Hear and give ear; be not proud, for the LORD has spoken. 16 Give glory to the LORD your God before he brings darkness, before your feet stumble on the twilight mountains, and while you look for light he turns it into gloom and makes it deep darkness. 17 But if you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the LORD’s flock has been taken captive. 

In my Introductory Greek class, we learned the Greek alphabet during the first week of school. I remember quickly memorizing all 24 letters and then moving on to homework that was actually due. When exam time came along, our T.A. told us to make sure we knew the Greek alphabet, and I happily checked it off the list of things I didn’t need to study because I already knew them. We got our exams and, lo and behold, the last question wrote, “Spell out the entire Greek alphabet.” To no one’s surprise, I could not answer the question and lost out on ten very much needed extra credit points. I left the exam recalling my T.A.’s words and wondering why I just didn’t spend five extra minutes brushing up on the alphabet…

In our passage today, Jeremiah is preaching the same message he had been preaching all along to the people of Israel. He says, “Hear and give ear; be not proud, for the Lord has spoken…” and reinforces God’s commandments to worship Him alone. Jeremiah preaches this message for approximately 20 years until the Babylonians invade Israel as a result of Israel’s disobedience.

The reason my T.A. re-told our class to know the Greek alphabet wasn’t because he thought we didn’t learn it the first time; it was because he knew we had forgotten it by midterm season. Only our exam results would show who had heard the heart behind my T.A.’s words. Likewise, Jeremiah prophesies repeatedly because he knows it’s what the people need to hear, and that they haven’t turned from their rebellious ways yet. He asks them to “give ear” and “not be proud” to God’s call to obedience, which seemed harsh at first, but would ultimately be life-giving. Here, the ability to hear is not based on how many times we hear something, how many services we attend, or how many devotionals we read, but it’s based on the attitude of our hearts. Today, let’s humble ourselves and give our ears and hearts to what God has been speaking in our own lives.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You that You always speak to us, even when we can’t or refuse to hear You. Forgive us for when we turn a deaf ear to You and speak to us again today because we are listening. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ezekiel 25


Lunch Break Study

Read Exodus 3:14-17: Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. 16 Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, v“I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, 17 and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, land flowing with milk and honey.”’

Questions to Consider

  1. God could have introduced Himself to Moses (and effectively Israel) in different ways and from different perspectives, but He chose to introduce Himself this way. Describe what He is highlighting.
  2. Why do you think God says, “I have observed you and what has been done to in Egypt…”?
  3. This is an important passage in the OT where God reveals Himself in a direct way. Is there anything new that you have learned about who God is, biblically?

Notes

  1. God highlights the relationship with Israel He has already built as the God and faithful Deliverer of their forefathers. He is not a foreign God, but One who has been with them and cared for them since the beginning.
  2. God seems to be affirming the pain and suffering Israel has endured thus far. This is powerful in our own lives because God does not ignore but affirms our own pain and suffering, whether it was caused by our own sin or not.
  3. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

Was there anything you felt like you’ve been ignoring or forgotten about that God re-highlighted today? Many times, we forget how to hear His voice because it feels like we have to face this life alone. Let’s remember this is not the case and that God has been working in our lives from the beginning and align our hearts to His voice and leadership, again.

June 17, Sunday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Thy Loving Kindness”

Jeremiah 12:14-17

This is what the Lord says: “As for all my wicked neighbors who seize the inheritance I gave my people Israel, I will uproot them from their lands and I will uproot the people of Judah from among them. 15 But after I uproot them, I will again have compassion and will bring each of them back to their own inheritance and their own country. 16 And if they learn well the ways of my people and swear by my name, saying, ‘As surely as the Lord lives’—even as they once taught my people to swear by Baal—then they will be established among my people. 17 But if any nation does not listen, I will completely uproot and destroy it,” declares the Lord.

The other day I was at a playground with my five-year old twins.  They had just received some bubbles as a goodbye present from their preschool teacher and were eager to take these puppies out for a ride.  As they started blowing bubbles, a crowd of children began to gather around them hoping to pop some bubbles.  (For the life of me, I don’t understand why children have this rabid love for bubbles.)  Anyway, one of these kids was a girl who was probably about three years old and, not being satisfied with merely popping bubbles, she wanted to be the bubble maker—so she tried to take the bubble wand from my daughter’s hand.  Now, this is where parenting gets kind of awkward, because my daughter Abbie is just looking at this girl like, “Back up, I’m bigger than you.  You can’t have my bubbles, and if my dad weren’t right there, I’d hammer you.”  Meanwhile, this other girl is kind of throwing a fit, and her dad seemed to not really know how to handle her when she gets this way.  So I suggest, “Abbie, maybe you can let that little girl have a turn.  Let her blow bubbles two times.”  I kid you not, Abbie looks at me like I sold her to a band of gypsies or something; I could tell she was thinking something like, “Dad, I thought I was your daughter!  Why are you being so nice to her?”  For whatever reason my kindness to this other girl, felt like meanness to my daughter.

Oftentimes when I read the OT, I feel like the other nations like the Philistines, or the Edomites, or the Amorites, or in this case, the Babylonians, are like extras or worse, villains in a movie where God and his people are supposed to be stars. Who cares what happens to the extras, and we certainly don’t hope for good outcomes for the villains, right?  But I forget that these surrounding nations were filled with real people, also made in the image of God.  And so sometimes, when I read passages like today’s, I’m like my daughter, I look at the Lord’s kindness to these pagan nations and think, “Why are you being so nice to them?  Why are you promising to restore them and give them a chance?  The Hebrews are your people.”  In other words, I mistake his kindness to them as meanness to us.

When Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt 5:44), who do you think of?  Perhaps it’s Islamic terrorists, especially in the Middle-east.  Perhaps Communist regimes in China or North Korea.  Maybe it’s not that extreme, perhaps it’s that selfish co-worker who’s willing to throw everyone under the bus so that he doesn’t look bad in any situation, or your next-door neighbor who always calls the city on you if small group is going too long or too late, or the car mechanic who you felt like just ripped you off?  I don’t know, but let me ask you this: If the Lord showed kindness to them, would it feel like meanness to you?

Prayer: Lord this morning, I want to pray for ____________; he/she has been making life difficult for me.  I pray that you would enter their life and bless them.  Also help me to see people the way you see them.

Bible Reading for Today:  Ezekiel 24

June 16, Saturday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Why?”

Jeremiah 12:5

“If you have raced with men on foot

    and they have worn you out,

    how can you compete with horses?

If you stumble in safe country,

    how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” (NIV)

Our church family lost a dear sister a couple of weeks ago.  Massiel was 26 years old and had been coming to Remnant for several years before I got here.  To my understanding, she had eaten a sandwich which contained a nut she was allergic to.  While in the ambulance, she went into cardiac arrest and lost oxygen to her brain for several minutes.  For over a week, Massiel was in a coma, until doctors determined her brain had sustained too much damage to sustain life.  And so with family and loved ones by her side, support was withdrawn, and we said goodbye to our sister until that joyous day when we will meet her again in our Father’s house.

Though I didn’t know Massiel very well, I certainly thought she was great to have in our church. I’ll remember how she almost always had a genuine word of encouragement for me.  After she passed, many of my church members mentioned how she had overcome so much in her childhood and upbringing, that it felt especially tragic that she would pass this way—and so young.  I remember visiting her in the hospital and a close friend of hers lamented that she didn’t ask what was in the sandwich (which she always did), nor that she wasn’t carrying her epipen (which she always did).  Thinking about all the “what ifs” can drive a person crazy.

If you have not experienced the untimely death of a loved one or an inexplicable accident, unfortunately, you eventually will.  In these times, you’ll probably ask God, “Why did this happen?”  The truth of the matter is that there are a number of things in life that make people ask, “Why?”  If you’ve been following our devotionals the last couple of days, you know that Jeremiah 12:1-4, the prophet asks a series of “why” to the Lord, such as, “Why do the wicked exploit others and prosper, and you Lord, seem to do nothing about it?”

Today’s passage gives the Lord’s response to the prophet in a manner that is likely going to be unsatisfactory to most; God basically says, “I have my reasons, and you wouldn’t understand them.”  Now before you go storming off, let me say this: I’m very comfortable not knowing why.  When it comes to even relatively small things in life, I find myself worrying about making the wrong choices, whether I have the right or complete information, or if I am seeing things from the right angle.  Truth be told, oftentimes, I’d rather just let the smartest guy in the room choose for me.  Fortunately, in my world, the smartest guy in the room has infinite knowledge, infinite perspective, and is by nature good—and He loves me and everyone else around me more than I ever could.  So when it comes to the big things in life, I find it freeing to not have to know the “why” all the time.  Perhaps some of you need to find more comfort in knowing less and trusting more.

By the way, I’d also say that God doesn’t always give us the “You can’t handle the truth!” answer to our questions, but His work may take many months before it’s discernable to us.  Unfortunately, so many times we are so stung by the sadness/anger of the moment, we actually harden our hearts and don’t see God’s working.  Think about the tough things you’ve gone through; how did they turn out months or years later?  Now that there’s some distance, do you see how God worked?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, just like the opening line in the “Serenity Prayer,” give me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, not because I’m being passive, weak, or lazy, but because I trust in Your goodness and wisdom.  Lord, I also want to pray for __________ who is going through a very difficult period in his/her life right now. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Ezekiel 22-23

June 15, Friday

The AMI QT Devotionals from June 11 to 17 are provided by Pastor Yohan Lee of Remnant Church, New York City. Yohan graduated from University of Pennsylvania and Cairn University, where he studied theology.  He is married to Mandie, and they have four adorable children

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 12:4 (NIV)

“How long will the land lie parched and the grass in every field be withered? Because those who live in it are wicked, the animals and birds have perished. Moreover, the people are saying, “He will not see what happens to us.” 

I generally don’t believe in the idea of “victimless crimes.”  Wikipedia defines victimless crime as “an illegal act that typically either directly involves only the perpetrator, or occurs between consenting adults; because it is consensual in nature, there is arguably no true victim.”  Examples typically include drug abuse, gambling, and prostitution.  Yet, anyone who’s had a loved one involved in a drug, gambling, or sex addiction can tell you how damaging they are for the individuals directly involved.  We also know that the further you go up the “food chains” of these crime syndicates, we start talking about truly sinister actions like human trafficking and murder.

Obviously, I described some of the worst sins in our society and their ripple effects.  But how about smaller areas of corruption?  A few months ago I was made aware how expensive construction in NYC is; I firmly believe that contributing to this cost are so called “expedition fees” that one has to pay in order to get permits issued in a timely manner.  Well, those fees eventually make their way down to every person working or living in the city by driving up mortgages, rent, and taxes.  My wife constantly laments the unnecessarily high cost of healthcare citing a variety of factors, including pharmaceutical kickbacks, bogus legal liability claims, uninsured patients, etc.  Here’s the point: we live in a society, and like it or not, what we do— somehow and to varying degrees—impacts others.  Corruption in one area trickles down to many areas of society.

Jeremiah saw this truth in today’s passage, when he asked the Lord how long the land would lie parched as a result of wickedness in Jerusalem.  In the Old Testament, one of the common punishments God doled out for apostasy was to withhold rain and curse the land (Lev 26:18-20; Deut 28:23-24; Hag 1:8-11; etc.); in essence, the king’s idolatry made life miserable for every citizen.  As a New Covenant believer, I’d be hard pressed to attribute natural disasters to God’s judgment, but I would say that many (if not all) of the difficulties in our society are related to someone’s (or everyone’s) sinfulness and corruption.

Here’s the take home: do your part.  We’ll never eliminate corruption on this side of heaven, but let’s not contribute to it; don’t let it beat you into participating with it.  Be a light; act as honestly as you can, train others to do the same, and trust our God to right all wrongs in His time.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please give me the courage and faith to act with integrity at all times.  Let me be the salt and light You called me to be, and give me a heart to pray for our leaders and our society.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Ezekiel 21


Lunch Break Study

Read Hebrews 10:19-25: Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Questions to Consider

  1. Before encouraging us to action, the writer of Hebrews gives us motivation for doing so in vv. 19-21.  What are they?
  2. Starting in v. 22 we are told to do three things (“let us…”).  What are they?
  3. How can you apply one or all of these to your life today?

Notes

  1. Our motivation for Christian action is that we can now have direct access to and draw right into the heart of the Most High God, because Jesus shed His blood for us.  We no longer have to stand behind a curtain, nor do we need a priest to intercede for us.
  2. Therefore, we are told to draw near to God (v. 22), hope for a future kingdom (v. 32), and encourage and meet with one another in fellowship (vv. 24-25).
  3. Application question.

Evening Reflection 

Today, I wanted you to consider what makes you different as a believer.  Is it the way you live your life with integrity and holiness?  Is it that you know and have a deep personal relationship with the Triune God, or that you genuinely hope and live as a citizen of another land?  Or perhaps, you love the family of God deeply.  Take a moment and ask the Lord to speak into your life about how you represent Him in this world.

June 14, Thursday

The AMI QT Devotionals from June 11 to 17 are provided by Pastor Yohan Lee of Remnant Church, New York City. Yohan graduated from University of Pennsylvania and Cairn University, where he studied theology.  He is married to Mandie, and they have four adorable children

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 12:2b (NIV)

“You are always on their lips but far from their hearts.”

I think I count as a relatively big sports fan.  Unfortunately, my favorite team (da Bears) have been an absolute dumpster fire for the past five seasons.  Since the 2012 season, we’re now on our fourth head coach (meaning, we’ve fired three in six years!).  Now, while I generally hate seeing people lose their jobs, I knew it was time for the last two to go.  In sports, you realize a coach has “lost the team” when the players stop playing hard or give effort:  In football, players will miss tackles or won’t get up quickly after getting blocked; in basketball, defenders will get beat off the dribble or give up uncontested layups and jumpers; in baseball, base runners won’t run out ground balls, etc.  In other words, the players just go through the motions of competing without actually putting their hearts into it.

If you have been seeking after the Lord for any significant amount of time, I would venture to say that there have been times or even extended seasons where you were guilty of going through the motions of Christian life (or worship or serving) without putting your heart into it.  Sure, you go to Sunday worship, small groups, perhaps retreats and other major church events, but you’re not particularly excited or come with anticipation, do you?  Even in serving, you can go through the motions; perhaps you were a small group leader so you hosted and led the Bible study, but you didn’t really prepare or pray for your members.  Pastors aren’t immune to gutless service either—if we aren’t careful, we can treat church work like a job, as opposed to a calling.

Now, I’m taking today’s passage a little out of context, as Jeremiah was complaining about genuinely wicked people who professed God on Sundays but did whatever evil their hearts wanted the rest of the days.  But still, even as people who genuinely want to follow and serve the Lord, don’t you find that there are times when Jesus is more on your lips (and actions) than in your heart?  Even if that kind of feels like you this morning, please regroup: remember who and why you do what you do, and get your heart right with the Lord.  Remember the words of the Apostle Paul, who said that it was Christ’s love that compelled him to preach the gospel (2 Cor. 5:14).  May Christ’s love be the reason you do everything you do, and may He always be near to your heart.

Prayer: Search me, O God, and know my heart (Ps 139:23); please restore my love for You.  If I am in danger of going through the motions of Christian life, forgive me and give me a right spirit.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Ezekiel 20


Lunch Break Study

Read Revelation 2:1-7: “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:  These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.  4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans,which I also hate.  7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Questions to Consider

  1. What are some things that the church of Ephesus did right?
  2. What did they get wrong and how did the Lord view this?  (v. 7)
  3. What was the Lord’s remedy for the Ephesian church?

Notes

  1. In vv. 2-3 we see that the Ephesian church worked hard and persevered through trials, and there was both a lifestyle and doctrinal purity to them.
  2. They had forsaken their first love (Christ)—this was such a serious matter that the Lord threatened to remove their lampstand.  In the previous chapter, the lampstand is what makes a church a church, so I think the most likely interpretation is that the Holy Spirit would leave this church.
  3. To fix their church, Jesus commands the Ephesians to consider or remember where they are now (and where they were), repent, and do those things they used to do (v. 5).  Perhaps that would be good for us as well.

Evening Reflection 

Today we talked extensively about the heart.  If you haven’t already taken some time to reflect, and ask yourself, Why do I do what I do?  Can you say that your life reflects a person who loves the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength?  Or are you going through the motions?  Has life (family, career, money, good times, etc.) clouded your heart?  Ask the Lord to reveal the condition of your heart today.

June 13, Wednesday

The AMI QT Devotionals from June 11 to 17 are provided by Pastor Yohan Lee of Remnant Church, New York City. Yohan graduated from University of Pennsylvania and Cairn University, where he studied theology.  He is married to Mandie, and they have four adorable children

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Truth Hurts”

Jeremiah 11:18-20

Because the Lord revealed their plot to me, I knew it, for at that time he showed me what they were doing. 19 I had been like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter; I did not realize that they had plotted against me, saying, “Let us destroy the tree and its fruit; let us cut him off from the land of the living, that his name be remembered no more.” 20 But you, Lord Almighty, who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance on them, for to you I have committed my cause.

When it comes to evangelism, there tends to be two approaches.  One is the direct method, where you just ask anyone, “Do you know Jesus?”  In its most extreme form, you’ll see street preachers telling passersby that they are doomed to an eternity of torture in hell.  Perhaps in reaction to the aggression and negative perception of the stereotypical street preacher, the other method of “friendship evangelism” has gotten more and more popular and is how most Christians choose to “evangelize” today.  Perhaps you’re familiar with this method; you basically try your best to be the most loving, most patient, most honest person on the planet (i.e. you try to be like Jesus), then you wait and pray for that eventual day when your friend will ask you why you’re so “different” from everybody else.  Of course, your answer will be “Jesus,” which will open the door to a wonderful conversation about faith and the Gospel.

In theory, friendship evangelism sounds great, but in reality, it has many flaws.  First, no one can sustain prolonged Christlikeness (that’s why we need a savior).  Second, most people are so cynical, they don’t admire that guy who is always joyful and caring; they hate him more because he’s so annoying.  But most importantly, if we’re honest, the real reason most of us “practice” friendship evangelism is that we’re a little scared of what happens when we represent Christ.  We’re afraid to be labeled a close-minded “Jesus Freak”, and we’re afraid that our words will be misinterpreted as judgmental and eventually break the relationships we worked so hard to build.  This a legitimate concern and an oftentimes sad outcome when sharing Christ.

If you’ve been struggling with how to share Christ with people you love, please understand that you are not alone in your struggles.  The Bible and church history is full of men and women who have loved deeply, spoken truthfully, and been hated venomously.  In today’s passage we see that Jeremiah was one such person.  God gave him a message, albeit not a message that was easy to hear, and he delivered it. The people hated him for it and even plotted to kill him.  The truth of the matter is that we as believers must understand the Gospel will not be “good news” to the majority, but we must continue to share the truth because it is the only hope people have.  So this morning, if you’ve been struggling with how to share Christ, let me encourage you, it’s always going to be a struggle. Perhaps, it might not go well, but understand also that God sees, and your words do have the potential to be life-giving.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, this morning I want to pray for _____________.  Let me be bold enough to share the gospel with him/her, even if it costs our relationship.  Help them to see Your love for them. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Ezekiel 19


Lunch Break Study

Read Romans 10:8-15: But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim:9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.” 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of alland richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? 15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

Questions to Consider

  1. According to this passage, how is a person saved?
  2. According to this passage, what is the believer’s role and why is it important?
  3. Why do you suppose Paul quoted Isaiah 28:16 in vs. 11, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame?”  What kind of shame was he talking about?

Notes

  1. We are saved by confessing with our mouths that “Jesus is Lord” and believing in our hearts that God raised him from the dead.  In other words, it is faith in Christ, not religion or actions.
  2. As believers our role in the spreading of the Gospel is to preach the good news to those who have not heard (vv.14-15).  This role is obviously critical because nobody can call on Jesus unless they’ve been told of him.
  3. I don’t think Paul was talking about a day-to-day-never-feeling-ashamed-of-anything-that-anyone-has-to-say-about-us type of feeling.  But ultimately, I think he was talking about an eternal feeling.  One day, when we are standing with God, we’ll know that we made the right choice and stood in the truth.

Evening Reflection 

Today’s theme was sharing the gospel, but more than that, it was about standing for God and doing what pleases him only.  This evening, ask yourself, “Is my one desire truly to live for and please God, or do I desire other things more?” (family, popularity, comfort, money, etc.).  Perhaps you live life trying to satisfy too many opinions or voices; perhaps you need to simplify and just listen to one.

June 12, Tuesday

The AMI QT Devotionals from June 11-17 are provided by Pastor Yohan of Remnant Church.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Tough Love”

Jeremiah 11:14-15

“Do not pray for this people or offer any plea or petition for them, because I will not listen when they call to me in the time of their distress. 15 “What is my beloved doing in my temple as she, with many others, works out her evil schemes? Can consecrated meat avert your punishment? When you engage in your wickedness, then you rejoice.”

I don’t know if this is a male/female thing or maybe an Asian/Non-Asian thing, but there Child Hurtare times when my children get hurt, and instead of feeling sorrow, I get angry.  A classic example of something that happens almost weekly in my home is when my five-year old starts jumping on the arms of our couch.  Like a little monkey, he goes from one couch to another, having a grand old time, until boom!  He slips and bangs his head against the floor.  So he comes to me, and he’s crying, rubbing his head, seeking comfort.  Now instead of giving him a hug or rubbing his dome, what do I do?  Well, if I’m in an annoyed mood, I might give him a Korean timeout (one where he sits on his knees holding his arms in the air).  It’s kind of cute seeing little kids try to do the Korean timeout.

I know that many of you reading this might be tempted to think that I am some sort of monster (please don’t call child services), but what you need to know is that jumping on the couch is an established no-no in my household, and my children have been told countless times not to do it.  So when Jonny comes to me holding his head crying as a result of his deliberate disobedience, what am I supposed to do?  Pretend it’s okay that he broke the rules just because he’s crying?  Come on!  You take me for a fool?

When we read today’s passage, you might be tempted to think that the Lord is cold-hearted toward his people, especially when He tells the prophet Jeremiah to stop praying for them.  But remember from yesterday that the Israelites had a long history of idolatry and turning away from the Lord.  Even as they offer sacrifices in the temple, the Bible says that they are planning evil schemes; talk about a disingenuous “sorry”!  What should we expect from the Lord?  Do you want Him to take back His people just because they go through the motions of coming to the temple and offering these “sacrifices”?  Come on!  You take Him for a fool?

Here’s the point: there comes a point where allowing a person to reap what he sows is the most gracious thing that can be done.  Like the prodigal son, who woke up in a pig pen, learning the hard way might be the only way some of us learn.  But here’s my plea… please don’t be that type of person.  Please learn to heed the Lord’s warnings and wisdom before it’s too late.  Be wise, don’t be a fool.

Prayer: Lord, please don’t make me one of those people who has to learn the “hard way”.  Help me to heed Your warnings and listen to sound advice.  In times when You do show me “tough love”, help me to see and understand what You are doing through it.

Bible Reading for Today:  Ezekiel 18


Lunch Break Study

Read James 1:2-8: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Questions to Consider

  1. In this passage, persevering trials and wisdom are juxtaposed.  What do you think is the correlation between the two?
  2. Why is faith so important when we ask for wisdom?
  3. Are there difficulties in your life that you are facing that require spiritual wisdom?

Notes

  1. Many times when facing trials, people will either blame God or the enemy and get bitter.  Wisdom helps us see what God is doing in difficult times and gives us a correct response.
  2. James gives us the key in v. 5: God gives “generously.”  Before His gifts, we must believe in His character, that God is always good and generous.  He gives His children what we need, all the time.  Understanding this, even in tough times, requires faith.
  3. Personal application question.

Evening Reflection

What is the difference between a trial from God and a temptation from the enemy?  Are there areas in your life where you are getting the two confused?  Tonight, ask for the Lord’s wisdom for not only perspective, but the right course of action.