December 2, Sunday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Best Advice I Can Give”

James 5:13-18 (NASB)

Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.

My adviceAs a young pastor still learning a lot about what it means to lead and care for others, I often find myself in situations where I am unsure what advice to give to people. I find myself often seeking the wise counsel of older, more experienced pastors. I ask them how they would handle certain situations or their thoughts on what I believe I’m receiving in prayer. But more times than not, our conversations end up in a place where there really is no other solution than this: they need to pray.

And I’m starting to realize how the best advice I could give as a pastor is really this—you need to pray. I would often feel the pressure of wanting to say the right thing or have that nugget of wisdom that will help them to see things more clearly. But in the end, I’m learning that there is no substitute, no alternative to someone humbling themselves before God and Him speaking to them.

James is often considered one of the most practical books found in scripture. And you can see this in his final exhortation to the believers. James speaks to those who are suffering, those who are cheerful, those who are sick, those in sin; in other words, in all circumstances of life, James’ practical direction is prayer. And the language here is not suggestive, that is, the verb tense used here is an imperative: He must pray.

The question I want to challenge all of us here today is how practical is prayer in your life? When we are sick, when we are stressed, or when we are confused, is prayer the practical next step for you? What about times when you are rejoicing or celebrating, is prayer or worship the immediate response?

As practical as the book of James is, it is also profoundly theological. For James, the idea that every good and perfect gift comes from God is not merely an ideal—it is a reality in which we are to live daily. Our everyday interactions are not just between two people; there is another Person involved, meaning the practical workings of our lives have a profound spiritual reality. Therefore, we must pray. And the promise is that prayer that is right before God can accomplish much.

Brothers and sisters, it’s already December. Another year is ending, and the question I want to ask is how’s your prayer life? In less religious words, basically what I want to ask is how’s your relationship with the Lord? The vibrancy of our relationship with God dictates our ability to see how interconnected and involved He is in our lives. So I pray that every moment and aspect of our lives would be in and through and for God.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for the gift of prayer. Thank You that when we humble ourselves and pray, You are a God who is there. Thank You that we have been given such a practical tool to build our relationship with You. Help us to use it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Proverbs 2

 

November 25, Sunday

Devotional Thought for Today

“It Must Be Faith with Deeds”

James 2:14-26

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

When I decided to go on one-year missions to Shanghai in 2013, I shared the news with faith workmy non-Christian brother. His immediate response to what was supposed to be an exciting news was, “Don’t you think it’s better to provide education and service to people in need than organized religion?” Although his response hurt and frustrated me, I realize now that his question has some merit. What can religion do for the one who is sick, starving or without any basic needs met? Of course, they may be able to have a relationship with God and go to heaven, but is that what Christianity is all about? Does the God of love only care about salvation and not the earthly needs of His children?

When we look at the Bible, we can see that God is not reticent of people’s needs. Instead, we see God’s providential hand all throughout Israel’s journey from slavery into the promised land; we see Jesus’ heart to heal the brokenhearted in the story of Samaritan women; and we see Jesus feeding people rather than sending them away. Luke 4:18 sums up Jesus’ ministry as more than a proclamation of spiritual salvation, but a holistic ministry that brings deliverance to the captives, healing to the sick, and release for the oppressed.

The Christian faith is one that goes beyond a belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. It is a faith that is put to the test by our actions where faith and deeds meet to reflect the life of Christ. James calls it foolish to believe that you can have one without the other; in fact, Satan even believes in God, yet his faith is not credited to him as righteousness because his actions (or lack thereof) do not reflect a true salvific faith.

It is no different with us. To live an active life of faith we are called to respond with our deeds. While the greatest moment in our relationship with God is when we come to faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ who saves a sinner like us, James shows us that our faith is made complete by our actions. That is, we are called to more than a life of belief, but a life where all that we do reflects the hope and faith that we have in a God who cares about all the needs of a person – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. Therefore, let us be people whose faith is made complete by our faith and actions today!

Prayer: God I thank You that your work on the cross has sanctified me once and for all. Help me to live a life of not just faith, but a life with faith and deeds. And help me to be a beacon of light to others in all of their needs. In Jesus name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ecclesiastes 6

November 22, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

–Wishing a Blessed Thanksgiving to All Our Readers–

“Greater Are His Ways”

James 1:22-25

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

Today’s passage is one that I used to hear every youth pastor speak on, yet I always had mirrordifficulty understanding it as a young believer. I didn’t necessarily have trouble understanding the meaning of the passage, but I couldn’t seem to understand the analogy associated with the verse. I mean how ridiculous is it for any person to forget what they look like after staring at the mirror. Isn’t the very point of staring at a mirror to see what you look like? It would take me a long time to realize that the absurdity of the analogy was precisely why it was used in this context. In the same way it is ridiculous for any person to forget what they look like after staring at an object for the sole purpose of looking at themselves, it is foolish for a person to stare at a Bible and walk away with the heart of disobedience. Why read the Word then?

Today’s passage highlights the truth that we are called to read the Word with the heart to obey. Anything other than a desire towards obedience to the Word is deception in James’s eyes, and as absurd as forgetting how you look like while staring at a mirror. But more than that, we read that obedience to the will of God is what leads to true blessings. So often we believe our ways are better than God’s way because we want to see our own type of fruit, but James shows us that true blessing comes in walking in alignment with the Father.

Stickered on the front page of my Bible is a post-it that says, “If we read with the will to obey, He by His Spirit will show us His way.” Let us be people who open our Bibles every day, not just for the sake of reading the Word, but with the will to obey. When we come with this heart of obedience it is God’s promise that He will show us a way to submit to His will. Take some time now to reflect on any areas of your life that you are struggling to obey God. Be encouraged by today’s passage that it is in the perfect law that there is freedom, and thus, you can release your plans for His as God’s desire is to bring blessings upon your life.

Prayer: God I thank you for Your saving grace that has made me a new creation. Help me to read the Word every day with the heart of obedience. I pray that You would make a way in times when my heart desires to go astray. In Jesus name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ecclesiastes 2


Lunch Break Study:

Read Psalm 19:7-11: The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; 8 the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; 9 the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. 11 Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does this passage say about the commandment of the Lord (i.e., descriptors)
  2. What does this passage list as the benefits of keeping God’s commandments?
  3. Take some time to reflect on ways you can obey the Lord today. It can be as simple as taking the time to pray for your neighbors or maybe it’s something God has been asking you to do for a while, but you have been hesitant to obey. May you find that the Word is sweater than honey as you obey His call.

Notes

  1. The law is perfect, right, pure, clean, true, righteous, precious, and sweet.
  2. The law will revive one’s soul, rejoice one’s heart, and enlighten one’s eyes.
  3. Personal response.

Today we discussed our call to not only read the Word but to obey His Word. So how did you do? Were you able to read the Word with the will to obey? If you are struggling with obedience in a particular area can I encourage you to share with a trusted friend. Some of the greatest breakthroughs come in vulnerability and prayer, and it may just be the encouragement you need. Tomorrow is a new day, may your prayer be that you would begin each day with a heart of obedience to the King!

September 18, Tuesday

Charles Graham

The AMI QT Devotionals for September 18-19 are provided by Charles Graham. Charles is a new intern with Kairos, who came aboard in September of 2017. He is currently studying at Talbot School of Theology to prepare himself for a life of service and ministry.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Full Circle: Everything Comes Back to God”

Jeremiah 37:1-10 (NASB)

Zedekiah the son of Josiah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah, reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim. 2 But neither he nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the LORD that he spoke through Jeremiah the prophet. 3 King Zedekiah sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the priest, the son of Maaseiah, to Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “Please pray for us to the LORD our God.” 4 Now Jeremiah was still going in and out among the people, for he had not yet been put in prison. 5 The army of Pharaoh had come out of Egypt. And when the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard news about them, they withdrew from Jerusalem. 6 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet: 7 “Thus says the LORD, God of Israel: Thus shall you say to the king of Judah who sent you to me to inquire of me, ‘Behold, Pharaoh’s army that came to help you is about to return to Egypt, to its own land. 8 And the Chaldeans shall come back and fight against this city. They shall capture it and burn it with fire. 9 Thus says the LORD, Do not deceive yourselves, saying, “The Chaldeans will surely go away from us,” for they will not go away. 10 For even if you should defeat the whole army of Chaldeans who are fighting against you, and there remained of them only wounded men, every man in his tent, they would rise up and burn this city with fire.’”

I’ve been privileged to work closely with Pastor Joshua Chzen of Kairos. Once, he challenged us by asking, “How often do we live as if God does not exist?” The absurdity of a godless worldview is so paternally obvious that Pastor Josh did not dwell on it too much; instead, he highlighted how Christians habitually succumb to the pressures of a society that has long forgotten God. As difficult as this was to hear, he rightly pointed out how often we fall short by ignoring the nudging of the Spirit to heed God and His eternal truth.

Full CircleIn today’s passage, Jeremiah recounts how King Zedekiah would not listen to the word of God (v. 2). And it wasn’t until Judah was besieged that the king asked Jeremiah to pray to God on their behalf (v. 3). Essentially, only when Zedekiah’s back was against the wall did he turn to God. Christians are no different. We are constantly buffeted by the push and pull of our secular world; and, too often, the pressures can become so great that we ignore our convictions, effectively living as if God wasn’t here. It is only when all the chips are down, like Zedekiah, that we turn to Him in submission. Everyone and everything will (Rom. 11:36). But, we ought to look to God first, rather than waiting for calamity. I pray we ponder on this together daily, reminding one another of Whom we are committed to.

We can also find comfort in the rest of the passage (Jer. 37:7-11). Here, Jeremiah receives word from God that the kingdom will be destroyed, just as previously proclaimed. God’s word will be done. Though this does not bode well for Zedekiah, the simple notion that God’s word will come to pass is most uplifting.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4 [NASB]).

What could be more heartwarming than to realize what has been promised by God! Remember, regardless of the difficulties of the Christian life, God’s word is true. Everything starts and ends with Him.

This is the full circle.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the truth of Your Word. I am so thankful that I can call You my foundation. Lord, I don’t ever want to live as if You aren’t here. Please remind me every single day of who You are, so I may, in turn, reflect who You are to others in how I live.

Bible Reading for Today: Job 32


Lunch Break Study

Read Romans 11:36 (NASB): “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What does this short, yet powerful, passage mean?
  2. What does the meaning of the passage imply?
  3. Reflect your life in light of the message of this terse verse.

Notes

  1. This passage is the declaration that “all things” find their origins in, are maintained by and ultimately return to God. He is the Creator, Sustainer and Judge of everything in existence.
  2. As the Creator of all things, God is the necessary precondition for anything to exist or occur. This includes, but is by no means limited to, the existence of the universe, life, logic, morale experience, etc. Without God at the beginning of everything, the world falls into absurdity.
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

In your personal quiet time with God, consider the enormity of His power and reach as He is described in Rom. 11:36. With this in mind, reflect on the idea that, although God has this immense power and influence, He also has the temperament described in Matt. 11:28-30: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

August 24, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“A Life Lived in Light of God’s Infinity”

Jeremiah 32:17-20

“Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. You show lovingkindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them—the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is the Lord of hosts. You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for Your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings. You have set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, to this day, and in Israel and among other men; and You have made Yourself a name, as it is this day.”

God is InfiniteThe average lifespan of a person is said to be about 79 years. In comparison to the infinitude of time, a human life is very brief. Perhaps this is why we tend to think in the scope of finiteness. We tend to get caught up in our current situations and gauge our lives in the context of what is happening in the now. It is unnatural for us to think in the scope of eternity. We may even wonder if this is possible to do.

The Lord, however, is boundless in His thinking and establishes His purpose down to the thousandth generation. After all, He did create the grand expanse of the heavens and earth as it says in Jeremiah 32:17, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.” This perspective of eternity allows us to process the experiences of current day in the greater scope of God’s purpose being established in our lives. This is a purpose that is being resolved in order to take us from one state of glory to another. It is also for us to experience the benefits of eternity now.

Consider what the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” This extends comfort to us that no matter the current situations that we are facing, we can be confident that the promises of God lie in every problem; and that these promises will bring us out with increased glory and blessing.

Therefore, let us not be fixated on what we need to see happen now but on the grander scope of the reality that God operates in. We are spiritual beings more than physical. Look not on the things that are seen but gain the habit of processing in the light of God’s truth that is taking you into a greater weight of eternity. This takes stillness. It is God’s desire for us to experience seeing Him and His promises that are found at the center of every problem life brings us.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You that I live in the realm of eternity. Through Your finished work on the cross, I have been set into a life that will take me from one measure of glory to another. I am thankful for this and choose to embrace a mindset that is set on Your eternal purposes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Job 4


Lunch Break Study

Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18: Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Questions to Consider

  1.  How have you been living for the temporal?
  2. What does it look like to live with an eternal mindset?
  3. What are your current “light” afflictions that are helping to establish in you an “eternal weight of glory”?

Notes

  1. It is important to be honest with your true values. Reflect on what consumes your thoughts, priorities, and time to gauge whether you have a mind set on the things above or on the things on earth.
  2. Consider what a renewed mind looks like. How would it go about processing situations and relational challenges in the light of God’s truth? Eternal mindset looks not at the immediate gains for self, rather to the likeness of God that every situation would mold us into.
  3. Consider how the challenges you are facing now has a promise of God in it to build you more into the likeness of Christ.

Evening Reflection

In the light of this morning’s reflection on the importance of having an eternal perspective on life, how did you fare today?