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?

August 19, Sunday

The AMI QT Devotionals from August 13-19 are provided by Pastor Barry Kang, who heads Symphony Church in Boston.  Barry, a graduate of Stanford University and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Sunny (an amazing worship leader, chef, and math wizard). They are the proud parents of Caleb and Micah.

 

Devotional Thought for Today

“Which prophet to believe?”

Jeremiah 29:24-32

To Shemaiah of Nehelam you shall say: 25 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You have sent letters in your name to all the people who are in Jerusalem, and to Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the priests, saying, 26 ‘The Lord has made you priest instead of Jehoiada the priest, to have charge in the house of the Lord over every madman who prophesies, to put him in the stocks and neck irons. 27 Now why have you not rebuked Jeremiah of Anathoth who is prophesying to you? 28 For he has sent to us in Babylon, saying, “Your exile will be long; build houses and live in them, and plant gardens and eat their produce.” ’ ”  29 Zephaniah the priest read this letter in the hearing of Jeremiah the prophet. 30 Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: 31 “Send to all the exiles, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord concerning Shemaiah of Nehelam: Because Shemaiah had prophesied to you when I did not send him, and has made you trust in a lie, 32 therefore thus says the Lord: Behold, I will punish Shemaiah of Nehelam and his descendants. He shall not have anyone living among this people, and he shall not see the good that I will do to my people, declares the Lord, for he has spoken rebellion against the Lord.’ ”

When we read the Bible, it is fairly easy to discern between the true and false prophets.  In this passage, the true prophet is the one that has a book in the Bible named after him.  But for the people of Judah, whether exiled in Babylon or scatter elsewhere, it must have been more difficult.  Which prophet to believe?

Shemaiah, one of the so-called prophets in Babylon, was scandalized by Jeremiah’s prophesies.  Shemaiah wrote to Zephaniah the high priest in Jerusalem, asking why he had not imprisoned Jeremiah yet, for in his mind, Jeremiah was the false prophet.  Zephaniah showed Jeremiah this letter, who in turn (at God’s direction) wrote a letter to the exiles in Babylon saying that Shemaiah was in fact the false prophet.  Who to believe?

This is a dilemma we still face today.  When two respected persons of God stand on different sides of an issue, who do you trust?  I would suggest three tests:

First, how does their prophecy/teaching align with Scripture?  The Holy Spirit does not contradict Himself.  The Holy Spirit inspired Scripture and also directs prophecy.  Jeremiah’s prophecies may have been unwelcome news for the exiles, but it aligned with the greater prophetic narrative that God had been telling through different trusted prophets, such as Isaiah.  In Acts 17:11, we see the positive example of the Berean Jews who believed in Paul’s message as they compared it to their examination of Scripture.  If you want to know which prophet to believe, begin with knowing your Bible!

Second, what is their fruit?  In Deuteronomy 18:21-22, God anticipates the question of how to discern between true and false prophets.  He declares:

And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him. (Deut 18:21-22)

If the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken. For the exiles, it would soon become evident which prophet was true or false.  One set of prophets declared that God would bring them out of Babylon within a matter of two years.  Jeremiah stood alone saying that it would be much longer.  Within two years, it would become apparent that Jeremiah was the true prophet.  Sometimes we cannot discern immediately whether a prophet is true or false.  It will take patience

Jesus told us in Matthew 7:15-20 that we would recognize false prophets by their fruit.  Do their words come to pass?  Does their message align with Scripture? Does their character and actions exhibit the Kingdom and gospel values?  Do their prophecies and actions advance the Kingdom of God?

Third, pray.  This is as important for the would-be prophet as well as the hearer.  How do you know that you have heard correctly from the Lord if someone else is speaking the exact opposite message?  We need to pray.  Prophecy is speaking the words that God commands us to speak. In the book of Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came often to Jeremiah.   Unless we are hearing from the Lord, it is not true prophecy.  In the book of Jeremiah, the word of the Lord came often to Jeremiah (e.g. Jeremiah 29:30).  When you hear from God in times of prayer, you will be able to discern between true and false prophecy.

Prayer: Lord, raise up true prophets for our day in every church.  Help us to live in the power and presence of Your Spirit!  We want to hear from You and be used by You to speak to others.    In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Esther 9

August 18, Saturday

The AMI QT Devotionals from August 13-19 are provided by Pastor Barry Kang, who heads Symphony Church in Boston.  Barry, a graduate of Stanford University and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Sunny (an amazing worship leader, chef, and math wizard). They are the proud parents of Caleb and Micah.

 

Devotional Thought for Today

“Sexual Sin and False Prophecy”

Jeremiah 29:20-23

Hear the word of the Lord, all you exiles whom I sent away from Jerusalem to Babylon: 21 ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning Ahab the son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah the son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying a lie to you in my name: Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he shall strike them down before your eyes. 22 Because of them this curse shall be used by all the exiles from Judah in Babylon: “The Lord make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire,” 23 because they have done an outrageous thing in Israel, they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and they have spoken in my name lying words that I did not command them. I am the one who knows, and I am witness, declares the Lord.’ ”

Ahab (the son of Kolajah) and Zedekiah (the son of Maaseiah) were members of the Jewish exilic community in Babylon who were thought to be prophets.  While we don’t know exactly what they were prophesying, from the context, it seems as though they were prophesying that God’s judgment was over and that things were now going to be okay. Perhaps they were encouraging the exiles to rebel against the Babylonian authorities and to trust that God would bring them back to Jerusalem safely.  Whatever the case, God not only rebukes them, He also sets them apart as an example of His judgment.  Jeremiah prophesies that they will be burned in the fire by Nebuchadnezzar—a common punishment in those days (cf. Daniel 3:19-20)—and their names will be used as a curse: “The Lord make you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire”!

We are given two reasons for this condemnation in verse 23.  The first reason (mentioned second) has been a theme for the past two chapters of Jeremiah—namely, Ahab and Zedekiah have been falsely prophesying.

The other reason is startling and also so very tragically normal.  We learn that Zedekiah and Ahab have also been committing adultery with their neighbors’ wives (v.23).  What is it with people who are supposedly representing God and sexual sin?  The revelation of their sin is startling because it comes out of the blue in the context of Jeremiah 29.  Yet, in the world we find ourselves in, this revelation is tragically too common.

I do not believe it is a mere coincidence that these two sins are linked together.  False prophecy and sexual sins are related symptoms of a deeper-rooted problem.  One does not cause the other, and they do not always go together; however, both are symptomatic of a heart that no longer fears God. We could speculate at length as to why Ahab and Zedekiah prophesied what they did.  Perhaps they sincerely believed that God would protect and guard Israel; in other words, their theology was more important than actually hearing from God.  Perhaps they enjoyed the attention and appreciation they received from the exiles who no doubt were encouraged by their positive and yet false prophecies.  Whatever the motivation, it seems they had lost their reverence and fear of God.  I suggest they were now prophesying in the flesh rather than in the Spirit.  And when leaders operate in the flesh, it shouldn’t surprise us then to see the same people acting in more overtly fleshly ways—namely sexual sin.

Jeremiah 29:23 is a warning to us all (not just leaders).  Sexual sin brings the word of God into disrepute and those who commit this sin lose credibility.  They may be seen as false prophets, even if they have actually been preaching the true gospel.  For the credibility of the gospel, we need to run from sexual sin.

But if the root cause is a heart that no longer fears God, then the solution to sexual sin is not just more accountability or boundaries or self-control.  Rather, the solution is to immerse ourselves into the gospel and develop a greater understanding of grace, which doesn’t just excuse our sins and leaves us in the flesh but moves us into the Spirit and a reverence and awe of God!

Prayer: Lord, we mourn for the disrepute sexual sin has brought to the church and also to Your name.  We want to long for Your glory more and more.  We ask that You help us to focus our righteous indignation not only upon Christian leaders but also upon our own hearts—that our hearts would be filled with mourning for the necessity of Your sacrifice on the cross, and also with joy at our newfound identity in You.  Fill us with Your spirit that we may awe You and love You more and more.  In Jesus’ name, we pray.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Esther 7-8

August 17, Friday

The AMI QT Devotionals from August 13-19 are provided by Pastor Barry Kang, who heads Symphony Church in Boston.  Barry, a graduate of Stanford University and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Sunny (an amazing worship leader, chef, and math wizard). They are the proud parents of Caleb and Micah.

 

Devotional Thought for Today

“God’s plans are for our good!”

Jeremiah 29:11-14

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Let’s review the circumstances of the Jewish exiles in Babylon:

  • Israel had been living in rebellion against God for centuries, ignoring prophet after prophet who urged them to turn back to the Lord.
  • Finally, God uses Babylon as a means of disciplining Israel. Babylon conquers Jerusalem and destroys the temple.
  • The elites of Jerusalem were uprooted and brought to live in Babylon by their captors.
  • Prophets in Jerusalem and Babylon begin to prophesy that God will bring the exiles back soon and they just need hold on for a little longer. But God, through Jeremiah, categorically denies that these prophets are from Him.
  • Instead, Jeremiah tells the exiles that God wants them to get used to living in Babylon (the enemy state) and even start caring for Babylon (again the enemy).
  • Instead of two years, it will be seventy years before they return. Many of the current exiles hearing this message will not be alive then.

It seems like it’s all bad news so far.  The Jewish exiles were not where they wanted to be, they were not doing what they wanted to be doing, and the when of God’s plan didn’t match their timing.  Then in verse 11, God tells His people that in all of this, He has a plan—a  plan to prosper them, not to harm them, a plan to give them a future and a hope.  His plan was in operation—not in spite of all the bad stuff, but even through the bad stuff.  And this is true for us as well.  God has a plan for us—a plan to prosper us, not to harm us.  A plan for our future and to give us hope.   Sometimes our circumstances may suggest otherwise to our limited perspectives, but the truth is always that God has a plan, and it is always for our ultimate good!  God’s cosmic plan saw its peak in the death and resurrection of Jesus, which means that we don’t have to worry about our tomorrows, because Christ holds that tomorrow in His hands.  Let us seek to submit our plans—all the when’s, where’s, and what’s—to Him today!

Prayer: Father, we thank You for Your love and plan to pour grace and truth into our lives.  No matter our circumstances, help us to trust that Your hands are around us.  I want to be surrendered to Your control, Your timing, and to Your will, knowing that Your ultimate goal is for our welfare.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Esther 6


Lunch Break Study

Read Romans 8:28-31: And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Questions to Consider

  1. For whom does Paul say “all things work together for good”?
  2. What kind of “good” do you think Paul is talking about here?
  3. What does passage tell us about the purpose to which we are called (vv. 29-30)?

Notes

  1. Romans 8:28 tells us that the Holy Spirit (c.f. Romans 8:26-27) will work all things for good for “those who love God,” who are also “called according to his purposes.” This is not a general promise of ambiguous good for all people, but specifically for those who love God and live according to His will.
  2. Again, the Bible does not promise general, subjective good for all people. The “good” here in context is our “ultimate good” or “true good”; it cannot mean anything we might see as good, such as pleasure or fame or fulfilled personal ambition.  Rather, the “good” flows out of God’s good purposes.
  3. Romans 8:29-30 tells us that God purposes us through His plan to become like Christ. We are also to become part of one family with Christ as the oldest brother.  Finally, God’s purpose is that we would be justified (i.e. declared “not guilty”) and also glorified!

Evening Reflection

Part of trusting in God’s plans requires that we redefine what we consider to be “good.” Let us reflect upon what we desire (consider to be good) and compare it to what God considers good.  Can we surrender and adopt new definitions of good if necessary?  Journal your meditations.