April 21, Saturday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Mark 12:28-31

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 

Today’s passage is a well-known story that most of us are familiar with, and it serves as a helpful reminder of what is central to our lives as Christians. Jesus is once again tested by the scribes and religious leaders about the Torah. They are desperate to ruin Jesus’ reputation among the Jewish community in order to put a halt to His ever growing movement. This time they ask Him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” to which Jesus rightly answers, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” However, it is interesting that Jesus also tells them what is the second greatest commandment, which is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The common thread to each commandment is love: love of God and love of neighbor.

It is important to recognize the order of these commandments. The first must be heeded before the second is made possible. As one commentator says, “Love of God is prior to love of neighbor and establishes its possibilities.” As much as we would like to think of ourselves as loving people, most of us are more self-centered than we’d like to think. We spend the majority of our time tending to our own needs and wants—only using the time and resources leftover for the sake of others. Simply put, we usually come first before anybody else. And it is difficult to find freedom from this posture of self-absorption.

What we desperately need is to be in a love relationship with God, learning how to love Him with all that we are and be loved in return. This relationship has the effect of healing our selfish tendencies and reorients us to live a life aligned to the kingdom value of other-centeredness. The more intimate we are with God, the more we are filled with love that can be shared with those around us. Without the first commandment, it is impossible to fulfill the second. For this reason, let us dive deeper into a love relationship with God!

Prayer: Father, help me to fulfill these two commandments. I am very selfish in many ways, often only thinking about myself. Free me from my self-centeredness and help me to love You and others well in my life.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Thessalonians 1-2

April 20, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Mark 12:18-27

And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.”24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”

Ernest Becker, a Jewish-American cultural-anthropologist in the 60’s and 70’s, is famous for writing The Denial of Death. Its thesis states that human civilization is essentially a complex defense mechanism in the face of its own mortality. In other words, humanity is terrified of its inevitable death and attempts to structure life in such a way as to find meaning, in spite of our inescapable mortality. Becker wrote this Pulitzer-winning book while battling colon cancer and facing his own imminent death. And the book was praised for its insight as many related to his conclusion.

All of us are afraid of death, not necessarily because it is something we do not understand but because it robs us of lasting meaning. All of our hard work and accolades lose their significance when we pass away. As a result, people have been desperately searching for a way to have true meaning that can overcome the problem of death. Becker calls this “immortality projects”; it is our way of remaining alive after life has ended.

Here, in our passage for today, Jesus is tested by the Sadducees on the doctrine of the resurrection. Interestingly, the Sadducees did not believe that God would resurrect the righteous at the end of time; that was a Pharisaic belief. They posed this question, as a trap, in order to make Jesus look bad; however, Jesus avoids their trap and disagrees with them, stating that God is not God of the dead, but of the living. In other words, He believes in the resurrection. In some ways, this is a foreshadowing of His own resurrection that would take place after His death.

For many of us, the resurrection is a doctrine that we only think about during Easter. However, it must be something that informs our lives on a daily basis. The resurrection tells us that there is life after death; that death is not the final word but life is—all because of the victory we find in Jesus. As a result, we do not need our own “immortality projects,” because Christ has accomplished it through His death and resurrection. This means that our work in the present has eternal significance that cannot be robbed by death’s power. And the life we live for God will not be in vain but will be everlasting. Let us remember today that the work of God’s kingdom, whether at church or in our workplace, will not go to waste. We are part of a project that will last forever.

Prayer: Father, thank You that death does not have the last say in my life because of the resurrection of Your Son. In light of this, help me to live for the eternal and not the temporal things of life. Help me to invest into the work of Your kingdom rather than things that will one day fade away.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Thessalonians 5


Lunch Break Study

Read John 11:17-27: Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Questions to Consider

  1. How does Jesus respond to Martha’s grief and pain?
  2. What do you think Jesus means when He says that He is the resurrection and the life?
  3. What role does the resurrection play in your life?

Notes

  1. Jesus responds by telling her that her brother will rise. She thinks that He is talking about the doctrine of the resurrection, which says that the righteous will rise at the end of time. However, Jesus wants to divert her focus away from an abstract doctrine to the person of the resurrection, who is Jesus Himself. Eternal life and resurrection is not found in believing a doctrine but by believing in the person of Christ.
  2. Resurrection can only be had through Jesus Christ. No other means can overcome death.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

“The point of the resurrection…is that the present bodily life is not valueless just because it will die…What you do with your body in the present matters because God has a great future in store for it…What you do in the present—by painting, preaching, singing, sewing, praying, teaching, building hospitals, digging wells, campaigning for justice, writing poems, caring for the needy, loving your neighbor as yourself—will last into God’s future. These activities are not simply ways of making the present life a little less beastly, a little more bearable, until the day when we leave it behind altogether (as the hymn so mistakenly puts it…). They are part of what we may call building for God’s kingdom.” – N.T. Wright

April 19, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for the Day

Read Mark 12:1-12

And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard.9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; 11 this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”12 And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.

The Enlightenment marked a profound change in human history. No longer was God central to the grand narrative of culture; that place was now taken by men and their optimism for humanity’s potential and ability to create meaning apart from God. People began to invest into the sciences and philosophies not as a way of discovering the wonders of God but to gain autonomy apart from Him. This began the secularization of the world in which we find ourselves today; where society has sought to maximize individual freedom and to write its own narrative script. In some sense, it has attempted to kill off God and take over the course of history – seeing it as its own project.

Similarly, in our passage for today, Israel in its own way attempted to distance themselves from God as a way of running their lives as how they saw fit. Here, Jesus is narrating the story of Israel in parable form. Israel is represented by the vineyard and their religious leaders are represented by the tenants. The servants are the prophets of God who were dismissed and killed throughout the history of Israel. The “beloved Son” in the story is Jesus Himself who is cryptically predicting His own fate that will come at the hands of the religious leaders. In other words, this story condemns the religious leaders’ failure to once again recognize those who are from God; instead, they attempt to keep their traditions alive even if it meant killing God’s servants. This is just like the tenants who said “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.”

In many ways, this is the essence of sin. It is humanity’s attempt at killing off God for the sake of our own individual autonomy. I once heard it said that sin is living life as if God did not exist. In our culture, the temptation to follow this course is strong. Everywhere we look, we see the culture telling us to carve our own path, to follow our dreams, and to pursue the things that make us feel good. However, we have to understand that just like the tenants, the life given to us is not ours; it is given to us by our creator God who has a purpose for our lives- a life meant to be lived out in loving submission to His will and plans for us. Today, let us once again surrender our lives to God in prayer, committed all that we have to Him.

Prayer: Father, forgive me for I have often tried to take control of the life You have given me- living for my own purpose. Help me to surrender and give You full control of every aspect of my life. Help me to trust You with all of my life.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Thessalonians 4


Lunch Break Study

Read Romans 12:1-2: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship 2 Do not be conformed to this world  but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is Paul’s main call to the Roman Christians in this passage?
  2. What is the purpose of renewing our minds?
  3. Which part of your thinking reflects the world rather than the thoughts of God?

Notes

  1. Paul is calling them to present their bodies as a living sacrifice to God. The entirety of your life is called to be sacrificed to God as a means of spiritual worship to Him.
  2. Our minds must be renewed so that we may be able to understand and discern what is the will of God for our lives.
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

As we are busy carving out and setting the course for our lives, take some time to prayerfully consider where your life is headed. Does it seem like it is a life shaped by God or shaped by your own hand?

 

April 18, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Read Mark 11:20-25

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God.23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”

Recently, I had dinner with a missionary who I’ve known for a very long time. And one of my favorite things about meeting with him has always been the stories he would share about how God has been moving in his ministry. Although each story is different, the underlying thread is the faith that the missionary has in God to do the impossible—whether it’s reaching out to someone who seems hopelessly lost or the huge financial deficit that needs to be resolved by a certain deadline. Each challenge isn’t met with anxiety, fear or trying to work harder to overcome the roadblocks; instead, he chooses to go to God and ask for mountains to be moved.

In our passage for today, Jesus challenges us to do the same. Here we find an interesting story about a fig tree that’s withered as a result of Jesus cursing it; and then, He begins to talk about prayer and faith. What’s the connection? The fig tree represents the temple that Jesus had just cleansed in the previous passage. Just like the fig tree, the temple was useless because it bore no fruit— it was busy with religious activities but did not further the mission of God. For Jewish readers, this was a shocking statement since the temple was the focal point of their religion. Jews who were not living in Jerusalem would face east towards the temple when praying, because it was where the presence of God resided.

However, Jesus in this story is suggesting that the temple no longer functions in the same role. With His coming, the temple has dissolved, and as a result, prayer and faith must be directed towards Him. For this reason, the disciples should not lose heart over the failures of Israel exemplified by the temple; instead, they should have faith in God (v. 22) and pray for the impossible. Their movement is not dependent on an institution but on the God who loves them, the One who would ultimately die for them.

Jesus invites His disciples to pray impossible prayers—like having mountains taken up and thrown into the sea—as they continue in their mission to usher in the kingdom of God. I wonder how many of us approach God in our prayers with that type of faith and audacity. As we try to live for God as believers, do we have faith as we pray? Do we easily get discouraged by the difficulties of life, or do we boldly approach God in prayer knowing that He can pull us through? As followers of Jesus, let us be people of faith. Let’s spend some time in prayer, asking God to move the mountains in our lives for the sake of His glory!

Prayer: Father, thank You that You are a great God who can do the impossible. I ask that You grant me the type of faith that asks with certainty for mountains to be moved in Your name. Help me to trust in Your power and not in my own strength. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Thessalonians 3


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Questions to Consider

  1. What are we called to make known to God?
  2. What is the result engaging God in prayer and supplication?
  3. How do you deal with things that make you anxious in life?

Notes

  1. We are called to make known to God about everything. Oftentimes we simply engage God with only the bigger things of life; however, Paul commands us to bring everything before God.
  2. We are given the peace of God. This does not always mean we will understand the struggles and difficulties of our lives, but nonetheless, God will grant us a peace that is beyond our own understanding.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

Our busy lives are often full of worry and anxiety. Instead of trying to figure things out on our own, take some time to name them and surrender them before God. Tell Him about all the “mountains” in your life that need to be moved.

April 17, Tuesday

Devotional Thoughts for the Day

Mark 11:15-19

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.

The story of Jesus cleansing the temple has always been one of my favorite stories in the Gospels. It’s a picture of Jesus unlike any other. Oftentimes, we imagine Jesus to be someone who is always peaceful and calm, and yet, here, in Mark we see a display of Jesus’ anger—not only communicated through words, but by the overturning of tables and physically driving people out of the temple! I remember being shocked when I first read about the temple cleansing. Was Jesus even allowed to react this way? Why is this story in the Gospel accounts?

However, when we study the text closely, we see that it was an appropriate reaction. The question that must be posed is, “What made Jesus so angry?” Many of us point to the fact that there was a marketplace set up in the temple courts. Since it is the house of God, commercial activity would be inappropriate. Others suggest that a marketplace was necessary, because people had to buy animals to offer their sacrifices; but what angered Jesus was the unjust manner in which business was done by the temple officials. I would suggest that these conclusions are only half-correct.

When we read Jesus’ response in verse 17, we are offered a clue to the reason for His anger. He says, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?” Here Jesus is quoting Isaiah 56:7, which prophetically spoke of a day when people from all nations would be gathered in the temple of God as His people. In other words, salvation would be offered even to those outside of the nation of Israel. You see, the original vocation of the Jews was not to enjoy the blessings of God by themselves but to be a conduit of those blessings to the world around them—that people might proclaim Yahweh as God. This was the purpose of the Abrahamic covenant.

However, instead of living into that vocation, they were setting up a noisy marketplace in the only area of the temple where Gentiles were allowed to worship. Instead of cultivating an atmosphere conducive for people from all nations to encounter the living God, they were using it as a place of commerce. In other words, instead of a house of prayer for all nations, they turned it into a den of robbers.

Simply put, Jesus was angered by Israel’s failure to live out their calling to be the light to the nations. His anger was fueled by His passion for missions; it was something taken extremely seriously by Jesus. And the question we have to ask ourselves is, “Do we have the same passion for God’s mission? Have we also forgotten our vocation to be the light to the nations as the church?” Just like Israel, many of us have often neglected this calling. It only becomes a focal point of our lives during the summer when we venture out with our short-term mission teams. However, we must remember that we have been saved by God to be a light to those around us. Let us remember this calling and not neglect it like Israel! Let us pray and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to those who do not know Him all the days of our lives!

Prayer: Father, forgive me for neglecting the calling You have given me as a missionary. Help me to live out this vocation faithfully and to have a heart for those who are far away from You. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Thessalonians 2


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Peter 2:9-10: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the reason that God has called and saved His people?
  2. Have you lived out your identity as someone that is part of the royal priesthood and holy nation?

Notes

  1. He called and saved His people to proclaim the excellencies of Him. Our salvation is not only for our own benefit, but He has given us a vocation to proclaim and share the gospel message to the world around us—to tell the story of God calling people out of darkness into His marvelous light.
  2. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

Consider this statement made by Leslie Newbigin, a missionary from England who serviced in India for forty years:

“Mission begins with a kind of explosion of joy. The news that the rejected and crucified Jesus is alive is something that cannot possibly be suppressed. It must be told. Who could be silent about such a fact? The mission of the Church in the pages of the New Testament is like the fallout from a vast explosion, a radioactive fallout which is not lethal but life-giving.”

April 16, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals from April 16-22 are written by Pastor Andrew Kim at Tapestry Church.  Andrew, a graduate of Eternity Bible College, is currently attending Fuller Theological Seminary.  He and Jessie were married in 2014

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Mark 11:1-11

Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’” 4 And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5 And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest! 11 And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

Growing up, I was the type of kid who would try anything. And I would always begin with much enthusiasm and excitement, whether it be learning a new sport or instrument. However, as time passed on, my commitment and passion for my new endeavors would quickly wane. It was because I began to realize what it actually meant to acquire these new skills—the hours of practice needed and the amount of focus necessary for improvement. I wanted fast results and it was not going to come easy, so I quit.  And this happened over and over again. Looking back it is easy to see that initial excitement for something does not necessarily lead to a lifetime of commitment, nor is it a sign of real passion or love.

We find an example of this truth in our passage for today. Mark 11:1-11 is a dense section of Scripture, littered with messianic allusions, two of which are important to consider: First, as Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey, Jewish readers would see it as scriptural fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, where the prophet proclaims the salvation of Israel that would be brought about by the coming of a humble king riding on a donkey. Second, it is important to notice that though Mark seldom mentions names of places throughout his Gospel, here he mentions the Mount of Olives. This location reminds readers of Ezekiel 11, where the glory of God departs the temple in Jerusalem and settles on the Mount of Olives. Many believed that the glory of God would return from the Mount of Olives and back to the temple. For this reason, Mark makes sure to point out that Jesus is descending from the Mount to the temple as a way of bringing to the forefront the very identity of Jesus as the return of God Himself. Both of these allusions emphatically point to Jesus as the coming Messiah, who is the God of Israel Himself.

In light of this, the people of Jerusalem rightly proclaim with much enthusiasm: “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” They were excited about the possible return of their Lord. However, as most of us know, within a matter of a week the very people celebrating the entrance of Jesus were the same people who wanted to crucify Him. You see, the people were expecting a particular kind of king that would lead them to swift victory over their enemies. However, Jesus redefined the nature of the kingdom. It was about loving their enemies and took the shape of the cross. As a result, the initial excitement and commitment to the movement of Christ waned and people began to leave.

Many of us also begin following Jesus with much excitement. We often have a picture of what discipleship is going to look like that fuels our enthusiasm. However, when God begins to bring us through the journey of transformation that is entirely unexpected and difficult, we begin to lose steam and even faith in the entire process. What we have to remember in moments like this is that discipleship means following the pattern of Christ—not one of easy triumph but one where life comes through death. For it is only through the dying of ourselves in discipleship that we find resurrection life. Today, even in the difficulty of discipleship, let us hold fast to Christ and remain steadfast in our commitment to Him.

Prayer: Father, thank You for calling me to follow You. I admit that at times it is difficult and sometimes the road You lead me on is not what I had expected. However, I pray for a steadfast commitment and trust in Your plans for me. Help me to faithfully follow You. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Thessalonians 1


Lunch Break Study

Read 2 Corinthians 4:7-12: But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why does God place His treasure in jars of clay?
  2. What does Paul mean that he is “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus?”
  3. What areas of discipleship do you find most difficult?

Notes

  1. God places the power of the gospel within broken people, like Paul and us, in order to show that the surpassing power belongs to God. The power is much more easily attributed to God if it is displayed through broken people.
  2. As Paul mentions in verse 8, he has gone through much. He has been crushed, afflicted, and struck down; in some sense, he is always dying. However, his suffering and constant dying to himself has resulted in bringing life to those around him through his ministry.
  3. Personal response.

 


Evening Reflection

We live in a culture where success is equated with the absence of discomfort or suffering. However, our discipleship to Christ calls us to die to ourselves and brings us into places of discomfort and suffering. In what areas of your life are you holding onto? Which parts of your life do you need to die to in order to experience the life of Christ?

April 15, Sunday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Your Faith Has Healed You.”

Mark 10:46-52

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” “Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Growing up, I used to love going over to my best friend’s house to play. However, I wasn’t allowed to go over to his house until his parents came home. Being an impatient child, I would call his house up to 10 times a day to see if they were home. While most parents would probably be annoyed by my constant calling, my friend’s parents found it endearing that I wanted to play with their son so desperately.

In this passage, we see Bartimaeus sitting by the road begging for money; at this time, Jericho was a wealthy city and many beggars would line up along the city entrance, hoping political elites or traders would give them money. According to Luke 18:35-43, as Jesus walks out of Jericho, Bartimaeus inquires why there is so much noise—it was a commotion that he had never heard before. When he hears that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, Bartimaeus immediately cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” When the crowd tries to quiet him down, he cries out even louder, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”  Jesus heals him and says, “Your faith has healed you.” Bartimaeus’ desperation resembles a child-like persistence. He knew that only Jesus could heal his blindness, and he wanted to desperately meet Him. While people found his persistence annoying, Jesus called it “faith.”

Sometimes we equate faith with knowing more theology and having more knowledge. However, in the kingdom of God, a child-like faith lets us experience Him. Please understand that theology and knowledge are important because they both facilitate our faith, but they do not define it. In Mark 10:14, Jesus says, “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” God is encouraging us to have a child-like persistence, so that we may experience Him!

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You that You desire for us to experience the kingdom of God. You do not make it a mystery, but You give us a blueprint to follow. Help me to be like Bartimaeus and have a child-like faith. In Jesus name. Amen!

Bible Reading for Today: Colossians 4

April 14, Saturday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is a 2014 blog by Pastor Peter Yoon.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Matt. 28:20

And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

I’m learning that there is a huge difference between vulnerability and insecurity in the journey of faith.

In this passage, Jesus is about to be taken up to heaven, and He understands the fears and insecurities that are gripping the disciples’ hearts as they face an insurmountable challenge of making disciples of all nations. He knows that they will be facing uncertainties, but He tells them that they can trade all of their insecurities for an overwhelming sense of confidence in His presence.

Similarly, in Judges 7, Gideon gathers an army after being summoned by God to fight against the Midianites. Before the battle begins, Gideon would see God reduce the army to one percent of the original number, raising the odds from 4 to 1, to 400 to 1—another insurmountable challenge. Yet God’s presence would go ahead and cause confusion among the Midianites, causing them to flee from a small army of 300 men.

Again and again, throughout Scriptures, people of God are led to circumstances where vulnerability and dependency on God are very real issues. He still does the same today as His church continues to seek His Kingdom.  Graham Cooke writes:  “Insecurity produces unbelief. A paralysis occurs where there needs to be movement and faith in action. People see their own smallness rather than the majesty of God. (The Israelites in Numbers 13: 33 said, “We were like grasshoppers in our own sight.”) Such people are prevented from achieving breakthrough in faith.”

In contrast, vulnerability is knowing that God is happy to send us out as lambs amongst wolves, because He is confident in His own ability to watch over us and work through our weaknesses. When we are vulnerable, we see our inadequacies in the light of God’s sovereignty and power, and we discover hope and faith.

It seems that when facing insurmountable challenges, we can either fix our gaze upon our inadequacies and be completely paralyzed, or we can fix our gaze upon Jesus who is also the perfector of our faith. The difference between insecurity and vulnerability seem so subtle; however, in God’s eyes, the two are as far as east is from the west.

Perhaps some of you are facing circumstances that you know you are inadequate to handle. Look to God in this season and place all of your dependence upon Him. In prayer, express to Him daily of your need for His presence in your life.

Bible Reading for Today: Colossians 2-3

April 13, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Spirit of the Law”

Mark 10:1-10

And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again. And again, as was his custom, he taught them. 2 And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” 3 He answered them, “What did Moses command you?” 4 They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.” 5 And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. 6 But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ 7 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. 9 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 10 And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter.

Growing up, I suppose I was like most kids, and my parents were like most parents.  And I had several manipulative ways to get what I wanted.  Direct attacks didn’t usually work—my parents would win every argument because they wielded the authority. But, if Mom was in a bad mood, I knew to tip toe around the corner to ask Dad and that would increase the chances of achieving my goal. The sneakiest of all was this: when I knew they both opposed what I wanted, I would try to tell Dad, “But Mom said I could…”—my plan would usually backfire shortly thereafter.

My parents, of one accord, were looking out for my good, but I, as a disobedient child, tried to go around their will. Like the Pharisees, I could only see the rules placed in front of me, around my neck—I couldn’t understand my parents’ heart behind them.

In my eyes, my parents enjoyed making so many rules so they could restrict me. On the other hand, I wanted more rules so I could take credit for following them. In my mind, I would receive glory for being obedient, instead of my parents receiving glory for creating a good rule. My will was focused on my own delight and my own glory.

When Jesus recognizes the hardness of our human hearts, He still sees us with compassion. Though Jesus has all of the authority that His Father has given Him, Jesus doesn’t punish us when we still “don’t get it.” Hard hearts, deaf ears, and blind eyes keep us from experiencing the new life that God desires for His children.

Jesus and the Father have one will and one mind. For a God who created everything, and knows everything, and sees everything— in our past and our future—there’s little we can get away with. We can try to manipulate the law to serve our desires, but this twists what protection Jesus offers us in His will.

As we appeal to authority, Jesus guides our minds, our hearts, our souls, our strength to be one with Him, in the fullness of our being. Let us not separate what God has brought together, but wholeheartedly surrender to our Father’s heart and will—even when we think we know better.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we praise You, for Your will is good, acceptable, and perfect. Help us, as your sons and daughters, to know You as our Father, so we can know Your heart for us and for the world. We want to delight in what You delight in with all of our being. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Colossians 1


Lunch Break Study

Read: Philippians 3:1-10: Finally, my brothers,1 rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. 2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God 2 and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law,3 blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death . . .

Questions to Consider

  1. What are Paul’s reasons for having confidence in the flesh? In what ways do you put confidence in your flesh?
  2. How does Paul now describe his previous reasons for confidence in the flesh?
  3. What is the one thing that Paul now strives for? In light of your previous confidence, what does this look like for you?

Notes

  1. Paul was circumcised on the eighth day; he is an Israelite (Benjaminite), a Hebrew of Hebrews, Pharisee blameless under the law, a persecutor of the church. (Personal reasons will vary. Go deep!)
  2. Trash and rubbish. He considers all as loss that he may gain Christ and be found in Him.
  3. Pressing on toward the upward call of God, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.

Evening Reflection

As Paul describes his confidence in the flesh as a loss for the sake of Christ, he reminds us that our citizenship is in heaven. Even if we don’t carry a physical passport, reflect on how you (tomorrow!) could live out the power that comes from belonging to Our Father in Heaven.