February 11, Tuesday

Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on March 18, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Love Deficiency”

1 John 3:16-18 (ESV)

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

Unlike God, everyone is born with a deficiency of love. And that is why we are all driven God is Lovein one way or another to fulfill our desire to be loved. Some of us seek that love in our families, while others look for it in friendships, and for many, they search for it in their marriages. Unfortunately, most people don’t realize that there is a very dark side to love that arises out of our unmet needs. We see it in children who are willing to manipulate their parents to get what they want; we find it in friends who were once close but grow distant; and sadly, people leave their marriages hoping that someone else can fulfill that longing for love. The irony of the human condition is that our unquenchable need for love is the very thing that keeps us from truly loving others. For instance, a starving person will only share begrudgingly, thinking that his supply is very short.

But this is where the Gospel provides a solution to this human predicament. The apostle John writes that this is love: that Christ laid down his life for us. God, having nothing to gain, gave everything that He had to creatures who could give nothing in exchange. Through the sacrifice of his Son, God forever proved that his love has no limit and is immeasurably pure. And so receiving Christ and beginning the Christian life is as simple as opening your heart to this love that is selfless in its motive, sacrificial in its ability to cover sin, and completely sufficient to satisfy the longings of our hearts.

In addition to having eternal life, a relationship with Christ transforms our hearts to love just as God has loved us because through Christ, our hearts can finally be set free to love. God’s love should enrich every relationship that we have to enjoy in this life. Try it today; you won’t regret it.

Prayer: Father, You are the very definition of love: Help us to receive Your love into our lives. May we come to realize that only You can fulfill our deepest desire to be known and to be loved. Reveal to our minds and hearts the incredible depth, width, and height of Your unending love. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 9


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 5:43-48: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why does Jesus place before us this difficult command to love our enemies?
  2. How does loving our enemy reflect our relationship with God?
  3. What does it mean to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect?
  4. Are you growing in godliness?

Notes

  1. One of the distinguishing marks of a genuine Christian is the way he or she loves. If we only love just as the world loves, we do God a great disservice because we misrepresent the nature of who He is and how He loves.
  2. Loving our enemy and those who are unlovable is an indication that we are growing in our sonship with God. In other words, we are learning what it means to be children of God, because we are learning to love as our Father loves.
  3. In this context, perfection does not mean moral purity, but rather becoming whole and mature. It takes great maturity to love without limit, but it is something that can be pursued and attained in this life.
  4. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Was there an opportunity for you to love someone who irritated, frustrated, or bothered you? Review your day and write about situations where you could have exercised more love and grace.

 

January 25, Saturday

Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought is provided by Pastor Ryun Chang who is the Teaching Pastor of AMI.  This blog was originally posted on March 9, 2013.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Don’t Get Fooled by This World; Live for God Instead”

Ephesians 2:10a

We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.

After declaring war on Japan, Franklin D. Roosevelt passed an executive order in1942 Japanese Internmentthat interned nearly 120,000 Japanese Americans in desolate concentration camps in the deserts. Those of Japanese descent born in America faced a different dilemma of either complying with the draft (to the dismay of their parents) or be imprisoned for refusing it. Some years later, John Okada, a Japanese American, wrote a novel called No-No Boy. In the preface, he wrote, “As of that moment, the Japanese in the United States became, by virtue of their ineradicable brownness. . ., animals of a different breed. . .. Everything Japanese and everyone Japanese became despicable.” Okada’s compatriots initially rejected the novel perhaps because it was all too real: the loss, alienation and anger.

During the Old Testament times, something far worse could have happened to the Jews living peacefully in the Persian Empire, when Haman the Amalekite, serving as a confident to the emperor, maneuvered to enact a genocidal policy against them. Had it not been for Queen Esther, who risked everything in order to plead to the king on behalf of her people, the plight of the Jews would have been worse than what the Japanese-Americans had endured.

These two events are a good reminder to us, who, in our opulent and comfortable lifestyle, often forget that our ultimate citizenship is not of this world, for Paul says, “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20). Thus, those who follow Christ shouldn’t be too dismayed by how the world treats them since, as “aliens and strangers in the world” (1 Pet. 2:11), they were told in advance, “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Phil 1:29).

Perhaps, some of us have forgotten this in pursuit of the things that the world says we must have in order to feel successful. Remember, we are not here to cater to our every whims and wishes but to do God’s work. As Christ’s followers, regardless of whether we are interned or threatened by enemies, we have the same task of trying to be the salt and light in a hopeless world. Perhaps unwilling at first, since it is risky and difficult, but let us be reminded of what Esther’s cousin Mordecai told her: “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Est. 4:14). You can replace “royal position” with “influential profession” or “abundant finances.” When the Lord, in his time, calls you to go all out for him, may you declare what Esther said, “I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish” (4:16).

Start living for the Lord now, little by little; make a small difference for Christ, today. Remember that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.”

Prayer: Lord, help us not to be duped by the trappings of this world. Instead, help us to keep our eyes fixed on You so that we are both willing and ready to maximize all that has been given to us from above for Your glory.

Bible Reading for Today: Romans 5-6

December 28, Saturday

The AMI QT Devotionals from December 28-29 (new) are provided by Christine Li who serves as a deaconess at Remnant Church in Manhattan, New York.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Better than Water”

Isaiah 55:8-11

“So I “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Do you remember learning about the water cycle in grade school? A quick and simple word.pngrefresher: water on the earth evaporates into the atmosphere, condenses to become clouds, and falls back onto the earth as precipitation. Except for extreme cases of water movement (deserts and floods), most of us take this cycle for granted and forget that it is running in the background; yet, this process is essential to sustaining life on earth.

God calls this to mind as He reminds His people of the importance of His word. Just as rain and snow go to the earth to water it and nourish all forms of life, God’s word—the Scripture—are necessary to water our souls and give us life. Just as we cannot see every drop of water going through this cycle, we see the effects on life around us. Similarly, while we may be unaware of how the Word is retained in our hearts and heads, we can always see its impact on our growth.

What does God’s word hold for us? Words about His faithfulness to His people assure us of mercy, provision, and protection; words about His goodness remind us of hope and joy we have in Him. When we consider God’s words, we will find tangible promises and true strength in all circumstances, not just a set of good ideas for us to briefly consider.

If the Word sustains our life, are we active in letting it permeate our lives, or have we been satisfied with a passive intake of it through others’ teachings and songs? Without active engagement, we cut ourselves off from this means of grace; when God’s word ceases to influence our lives, the effects are like those of a drought.

My challenge to you today is to spend time deeply engaging with Scripture. When we read through, react to, and respond to God’s word, it will produce deep transformation in our hearts. May the coming year find us increasingly filled with His word and a joyful awareness of how it changes us.

Prayer: Father, thank You for giving me Your Word! Help me not to take this for granted, but treasure it and let it be a foundation of my faith. Help me to be faithful in taking it in so that You may accomplish Your purposes in my thoughts, actions, and lifestyle. In the coming year, give us all a greater hunger for Your Word!

Bible Reading for Today: Luke 10-11

December 21, Saturday

The AMI QT Devotionals from December 21-22 (new) are provided by Christine Li who serves as a deaconess at Remnant Church in Manhattan, New York.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Right Measures”

Galatians 5:16-26

“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.”

Over the last several years, my social media feed has become, among other things, an Height Measureannouncements feed of friends’ celebrations: engagements, marriages, kids, etc. Specifically, around kids, one common way they announce children’s growth is with charts you’ve likely also seen on a monthly or yearly comparison: how old they are, how many words they say, how many teeth they’ve lost, etc. It should go without saying that if we measured these kids on the wrong scale (e.g. the ability to bake a cherry pie or perform multivariable calculus), they would absolutely fail, but as long as we measure children on right and appropriate criteria, we will accurately assess how they are growing.

When I was growing up, I heard a joke that churches are usually measured with an ABC: Attendance, Buildings, and Cash. While these are definable and obvious measures, they don’t tell a complete story. Believers know that the most important thing that must be measured is the degree to which we are growing spiritually. But how can you or I measure our spiritual growth? This passage in Galatians gives us a good framework to start with: are we increasingly prone to the deeds of the flesh? Or are we growing in the fruits of the Spirit?

At first glance, these lists may seem qualitative and hard to measure ourselves on, but I challenge you not to dismiss them or gloss over them quickly. If we spend some time meditating on these qualities, we can find plenty of ways to measure our spiritual fruits: Do I frequently burst into anger when dealing with a certain individual? How many hours have I spent envying the lives of others around me? Am I spending more of my time serving others and meeting their needs? After arguments, do I seek to reconcile with others more now than I did in the past?

These are not the only ways to assess whether we are maturing as believers, but it can be a helpful start. Today, let’s submit to the Word and let it reveal how we have grown and have yet to grow. As we are led by the Spirit, let’s ask God to continue to transform us so that we will bear these spiritual fruits and exhibit His qualities more frequently and triumphantly over our old ways of living!

Prayer: Father, thank You for putting Your Spirit in me. I want to see fruit in my life borne in accordance with Your character and goodness. Make me more satisfied in Your ways so that I will not follow my flesh but seek Your ways!

Bible Reading for Today: Luke 4-5

August 14, Wednesday

Devotional Thought for Today

“Why Disciplines?”

Hebrews 12:7-11 (NASB)

It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

DisciplineI can recall during my second year of college my dad took it upon himself to cut me off financially. Through that point in my life my dad had taken care of me and made sure I always had what I needed. We were not financially well-off by any stretch of the imagination; however, my dad worked hard, saved and always found a way to make things work. My dad paid my expenses during my first year of college and made sure I had a little spending money. All he wanted me to do was work hard in school. However, that all changed after my first year ended. To make a long story short, my dad told me I was no longer a good investment and I was now on my own. He was no longer going to pay my tuition or cover my living expenses. He said I did not have to go to college if I didn’t want to and I was welcome to move back home. But if I wanted to stay in school and live on my own, I had to figure out how to make it work. I thought that was a very sudden and harsh thing to do, but to my dad my grades were not up to par and I was squandering his hard-earned money.

At the moment when this happened I panicked. I thought how my dad could do this to me? There was no grace period, no warning…just like that I was cut-off. Though his method was harsh, I realized much later in life that this was one of the greatest lessons my dad taught me. What I saw as cruelty from my dad was actually him loving me. He could have easily continued to pay for my tuition, and I could go on as I was. However, in reality I needed this life lesson. I needed to learn to stand on my own, be responsible for myself and trust that I would be able to handle the most difficult of situations. My father knew me best and knew that I needed to learn how to stand on my own. As his child he was loving me by taking away my safety net.

In yesterday’s quiet time I shared about our identity as God’s children. We see from today’s passage that as His children, He disciplines us. (vs. 7-8). Discipline can take many forms. Sometimes, it is corrective, it can be preventative, or it can be instructive. Whatever the form of discipline, we must see that, as His children, He will discipline us. It is because He truly loves us that He has to teach us the way. Have you ever seen a child who completely lacks discipline? It is not a pretty sight. The discipline from our Heavenly Father is not a punishment, but a demonstration of His love for us. Our earthly mothers and fathers discipline us. How could we believe that our Heavenly Father wouldn’t? In verse 10 we see the reason for the discipline. It is for our own good so we may share in His holiness.

We have to understand that God wants us to share in His holiness. The discipline we receive is training in order for us to incorporate His holiness into our lives. Discipline differs from punishment in that discipline stems from God’s love for us. Punishment is God acting as a judge but discipline is God acting as a loving father. As a loving father, He offers guidance through discipline in order that we are able to share in the glory to come.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for disciplining me so that I can improve in all areas of my life, particularly in the area of loving and trusting You. Remind me to respond appropriately, in humility and reflection, so that I can share in Your holiness. Amen,

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 3


Lunch Study Break

Read Proverbs 3:11-12: “My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord or loathe His reproof, 12 For whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.”

Questions to consider

  1. Why should we not reject God’s discipline?
  2. Who does God discipline?
  3. Recall a time that you believe you were disciplined by God. What was the lesson learned?

Note

  1. God’s discipline is born out of His love for us. The corrective action is to allow us to join in His holiness. (see Heb. 12:10). To reject His discipline would be to reject His love for us as His children. It shows great wisdom to accept His discipline.
  2. God disciplines those whom He loves. As His children we will be disciplined. Not because He wants to punish us, but His love demands that He does.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

In what ways has God’s discipline shaped your life and your faith? Are you able to see that it is truly because of His love for you that He has to discipline you? Spend some time in prayer and thank God for His loving touch in your life.

July 10, Wednesday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by Pastor Mark Chun (Radiance Christian Church) was originally posted on March 19, 2014.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Great Antidote to the Condemning Voice from Within”

1 John 3:19-24 (ESV)

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

Adulterous womanThe story of the woman caught in adultery out of John 8, illustrates powerfully how Jesus frees us from condemnation. (See below for John 8:1-11.) We are told that the religious leaders brought this woman into the temple courts, in the middle of a crowd having Bible study with Jesus, and demanded a verdict regarding her sin. Imagine the humiliation, the isolation, and the fear of this woman as the weight of her sin was exposed to the church. As the passage unfolds, Jesus speaks the famous words that lead to this woman’s freedom: “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” One by one, each of these men filled with anger, drop their stones, and leave until only Jesus and the woman are left alone. In that divine moment, Jesus turns to the woman and asks, “Has no one condemned you?” In response to the woman’s answer of “No one, sir,” Jesus sets her free by stating, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.”
In going through this passage, it dawned on me that not many of us will fall into public condemnation, but we leave ourselves open to a much greater threat: the voice of self-condemnation. Like this woman, we have to get to a place in our relationship with Jesus, where we are free enough to say, “There is no one left to condemn me, not even myself.” The promise of forgiveness that is found in the Gospel is greater than what our fickle hearts often feel. In fact, it is impossible to be freed from our patterns of sin unless we truly receive the love of Christ, and open ourselves to share that love with others. Then and only then, are we able we come to God with the confidence that is promised us through the sacrifice of Christ.

Prayer: Jesus, I pray that I would encounter you in such a powerful way that reminds me that you are greater than my heart. Help me to overcome the temptation of self-condemnation and to fight against the accusations of the enemy. May I come to realize that whomever you set free, will be free indeed!

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Kings 12


Lunch Break Study

Read John 8:1-11 (ESV): but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.

Questions to Consider

  1. What was the nature of the trap that the religious leaders set for Jesus?
  2. Why did Jesus bend down to write on the ground?
  3. What did Jesus command the woman to do?

Note

  1. The religious leaders wanted to trap Jesus either by making him out to be an enemy of the Roman Empire or a false teacher. In the first case, no one could pass a sentence of death without knowledge of the Roman authorities. In the second case, if he simply let the woman go, he could be cast as a teacher without moral convictions and little regard for the Mosaic law.
  2. The classic Christian commentaries suggest that Jesus wrote on the ground to remove attention from the condemned woman and to place the crowd’s focus onto himself. This was a way for Jesus to protect this woman’s dignity and personhood.
  3. Jesus did not minimize the serious nature of her sin, even as he forgave her. In a manner that is consistent with both grace and truth, he commanded her to leave her life of sin.

Evening Reflection

Did you struggle at any point in the day with feelings or thoughts of self-condemnation? Did you judge someone else’s sin without grace? Confess yours sins before the Lord and ask for the freedom that comes through forgiveness.

January 15, Tuesday

Read this version.

AMI Quiet Times

The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith.  Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.

Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.  I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their…

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