July 19, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“God’s Will?”

Jeremiah 42:1-6

Then all the commanders of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest, came near 2 and said to Jeremiah the prophet, “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us— 3 that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do.” 4 Jeremiah the prophet said to them, “I have heard you. Behold, I will pray to the Lord your God according to your request, and whatever the Lord answers you I will tell you. I will keep nothing back from you.” 5 Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act according to all the word with which the Lord your God sends you to us.6 Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.”

Confession time.  I—like most men—am more sensitive than I let on.  So if someone were to negatively criticize one of my sermons, lessons, how I run a ministry, or even my choice of outfit for the day, on the outside I would appear receptive.  I might even thank them for their opinion—but inside, I would somewhat be deeply wounded. That is why, because of my fragile ego, my wife has learned to ask this question before giving her opinion: “Do you want the truth, or what you want to hear?”  Example: I would ask, “Honey, I just came back from the gym. Doesn’t my chest look huge?” Her: “Do you want the truth or what feels good?” Me: “What I want to hear, of course!” Her: “Massive—I don’t know how you don’t tip over.” Me: “Thanks.”  

Let’s be honest: we don’t always want the truth in our lives, but we want to hear what we want.  Even in our prayer lives, we have said at least one time, “God, tell me what you want me to do, and no matter what it is, I’ll do it.”  What we’re hoping to hear from God is, “Keep on doing what you’re doing.” When He actually says, “Sudan,” we do our best to brush it off as youthful exuberance.  

In today’s passage, Johanan and the rest of the leaders of Judah came to Jeremiah with a request and a promise, essentially saying, “Tell us what the Lord wants us to do, and we’ll do it.”  If you recall from yesterday, the Jews were considering fleeing to Egypt and were seeking the Lord’s stamp of approval with this plan. But as we’ll read over the next few days, they didn’t really want to obey God; they just wanted to hear Him say yes to what they wanted.  

The take home is obvious.  Do you genuinely want the Lord’s will and truth in your life, or do you—like Johanan and the rest of the Israelites—want Him to give you the stamp of approval for what you want to do?  Have you made promises to obey and then went ahead and disobeyed? But the good news is that with the Lord, there are often second chances to obey.  

Prayer: Father, cleanse my heart.  Help me to genuinely desire obedience; give me courage to follow through. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today:  1 Kings 22


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Samuel 15:22-23 (For context, this is Samuel’s rebuke to Saul after he disobeyed God’s orders to wipe out the Amalekites.): And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. 23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”

Questions to Consider

  1. How do you suppose people in the 21st century try to substitute sacrifices for obedience?
  2. Why do you suppose Samuel compares rebellion to divination and presumption to iniquity and idolatry?  
  3. Are there areas in your life where the Lord is calling you to greater obedience?

Notes

  1. Now, instead of sacrificing animals, we sacrifice our service, time, and money.  But even if we’re spending hours in church, small group, or faithfully tithing, we can still be in a state of disobedience.  More than anything, the Lord desires hearts that trust and obey Him.  
  2. Divination and idolatry are both similar in that we search out other sources of guidance or allegiance.  In both cases, God is able to meet all of our needs and is worthy of our loyalty. So in this sense, rebellion and presumption are not different than idolatry and self-worship.  
  3. Personal application. 

Evening Reflection

Today’s theme was obedience.  Is there anything you feel like the Lord is asking you to do that you haven’t followed through?  Perhaps you need a friend to speak truth in your life. Whatever steps you need to take, ask the Lord for the courage to follow through.

July 18, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Lateral Moves”

Jeremiah 41:11-18

But when Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done, 12 they took all their men and went to fight against Ishmael the son of Nethaniah. They came upon him at the great pool that is in Gibeon. 13 And when all the people who were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him, they rejoiced. 14 So all the people whom Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah turned around and came back, and went to Johanan the son of Kareah. 15 But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites. 16 Then Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces with him took from Mizpah all the rest of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, after he had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam—soldiers, women, children, and eunuchs, whom Johanan brought back from Gibeon. 17 And they went and stayed at Geruth Chimham near Bethlehem, intending to go to Egypt 18 because of the Chaldeans. For they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.

Career-wise, is a lateral move a bad thing?  I’ve had many friends telling me they wouldn’t consider changing companies unless they got increase in salary, position, or both.  The logic behind this line of thinking is that since you have a certain amount of years vested in your current job, you’ve accrued more benefits like seniority, vacation time, 401k matching, etc.  And of course, in your current company, you have a known commodity. You know what your life is like within your current workplace; you know your company’s culture, your boss, co-workers, best places to eat within a five-mile radius; maybe you’ve even found the deserted office to sneak in an afternoon nap.  Changing jobs presents a bunch of unknowns doesn’t it? From commute to office culture, there’s a lot that can surprise you that you couldn’t really pick up during the interview process, and if you’re not being compensated for it, a lateral move could easily turn into a net negative. I find that most people would only consider a lateral move if their current jobs were what they consider “toxic” (horrible bosses, terrible coworkers, unreasonable hours, etc.) 

Perhaps I’m exaggerating when I call the leadership from Ishmael to Johanan a lateral move.  Johanan never executed a coup like Ishmael did; in fact, his defeat of Ishmael was definitely a correction of a wrong, but make no mistake about it, this was no return to the glory days of Israel’s past.  We also see that Johanan still planned to leave the promised land, but instead of going to Ammonite country, he planned on fleeing to Egypt; as we’ll see in the next chapter, the Lord was not pleased with this plan either.  

Here’s my point, change simply for the sake of change isn’t always the best move.  This is why spiritual gift of discernment is so valuable. In one sense, we don’t want to be people who are so resistant to change that we miss what God is asking us to do.  In another sense, we don’t want to be so impetuous that we bounce from one situation to another, and never develop the fruit of perseverance. We need discernment to tell if God is leading us to stay where we’re at or go on a new path.  

What are the circumstances you are struggling with now?  Do you feel like the Lord wants you to remain? Does the other alternate route feel like a lateral move?  Ask the Lord for guidance; generally speaking, I don’t think he’s asking you trade a bad situation for one that is slightly less bad.  

Prayer: Lord, I’m struggling with __________.  I don’t want to change simply for the sake of change, but I also don’t want to remain the same because it represents a known.  Please give me discernment to follow your promptings.  

Bible Reading for Today:  1 Kings 21


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 are the prerequisites of discerning God’s will?
  2. What are the benefits of discerning God’s will?
  3. What are you struggling with concerning God’s will?

Notes

  1. In verse 2, Paul tells us that we should not be conformed to the world, meaning, among other things, we shouldn’t have the same value set and worldview of the world.  Perhaps our pursuits and goals are just like everyone else’s; if this is the case, that’s a problem. On top of that we need to have a renewed mind, which among other things, means we need to have the same value set and worldview that God has. 
  2. God’s will is good, acceptable, and perfect.  This is something that most Christians do not fully embrace.  Do we genuinely believe that God is good and he wants what is good for us, or in our hearts, do we think that we know what will make us happy, even more than God does?  Until we can believe His will is good, acceptable, and perfect will, we’ll never desire it.  
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Today’s theme has been about choices we make.  Is there something that is in front of you that requires a major decision?  Where do you feel he is prompting? Do you believe He genuinely wants good for you?  Take some time tonight to ask the Lord for the gift of discernment.

July 17, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Okay, Now What?”  

Jeremiah 41:10

Then Ishmael took captive all the rest of the people who were in Mizpah, the king’s daughters and all the people who were left at Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam. Ishmael the son of Nethaniah took them captive and set out to cross over to the Ammonites.

I’m doing my best not to be one of those helicopter parents (parents who hover over their kids ready to jump in at the first sign of trouble), so I do my best to give them a lot of room to get into some amount of trouble.  Lately, they’ve been really into climbing trees, and my town boast that we are a “borough of trees.” So when we go out to the park, my kids will try to conquer as many trees as they can. I’m proud to say that they’ve generally gotten pretty good; I have a nice little family of monkeys.  However, occasionally one of these little monkeys will climb a little too high or get to a branch that they can’t climb out of (up is sometimes easier than down). So they’ll get up there, and think to themselves, “Now what? I’m up here, but how do I get down?” In things like climbing and hiking, it’s important that we plan both the route in and out, this way we aren’t at the top of the summit thinking, “Now what?”  

In a lot of ways this is how I think Ishmael feels at this point in the biblical narrative.  On Monday, we read that he killed the appointed governor of Jerusalem, Gedaliah, and yesterday, we read how he slaughtered about 70 men who were presumably coming to mourn the downfall of Jerusalem.  By this point, he’s made enemies of both the remnant in Israel and the Babylonians. Now, since he has no place to hide, got prisoners to haul around, and no friends and countrymen to take him in, he decides to flee to the land of Ammon.  This may seem like an insignificant detail, but no self-respecting OT Jew was going to run to Ammonites for help. Talk about a guy running around like a chicken with his head cut off!  

Maybe in your life, you feel like you’re just scrambling too?  Perhaps you’re running from job to job, or place to place, or event to event because you didn’t quite think things out fully.  And when you’ve reached your next destination, you too are wondering, “Now what?” Perhaps the problem is not so much the lack of a plan, but lack of proper priorities.  You see, priorities are important because they keep us on track toward a noble goal, and if we don’t schedule life according to our priorities, we get off track and feel like we’ve been tossed back and forth by life and the circumstances we created for ourselves.  So, a wise thing for us to do just about now is to review our life’s priorities and recalibrate them from the standpoint of eternity.    

Prayer: Lord, what are the things that are most important now?  How would You like me to prioritize my life, so I don’t live like in FOMO mode.  I want to follow You and Your leadings, not whatever looks great at the moment.  

Bible Reading for Today:  1 Kings 20


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 6:25-33: Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?[g] 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Questions to Consider

  1. How does the Lord want us to plan or prioritize our lives?
  2. Based on this passage, how can you tell the difference between carefree/careless living and genuinely trusting in God?
  3. Are you a planner?  Is this a good thing for you or are you constantly anxious?

Notes

  1. Verse 33 is the key—we need to seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness.  So planning and prioritizing doesn’t make sense unless God is our first priority.  
  2. This passage does not say that we shouldn’t plan or work hard, but rather it speaks to those who fear that God won’t take care of them.  So planning is generally a good thing, but we realize that we’ve trusted in our own abilities more than God when worry and anxiety creep into our lives.  
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

What are the plans you have for you life?  Are they God’s desire for you? On the other end of the spectrum, do you even have a plan for anything in your life?  Does your life line up with your priorities or are you kind of just running around aimlessly?

July 16, Tuesday

Devotional Thought for Today

“Good to Bad”

Jeremiah 41:9

On the day after the murder of Gedaliah, before anyone knew of it,5 eighty men arrived from Shechem and Shiloh and Samaria, with their beards shaved and their clothes torn, and their bodies gashed, bringing grain offerings and incense to present at the temple of the Lord. 6 And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah came out from Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he came. As he met them, he said to them, “Come in to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.” 7 When they came into the city, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the men with him slaughtered them and cast them into a cistern. 8 But there were ten men among them who said to Ishmael, “Do not put us to death, for we have stores of wheat, barley, oil, and honey hidden in the fields.” So he refrained and did not put them to death with their companions.  9 Now the cistern into which Ishmael had thrown all the bodies of the men whom he had struck down along with Gedaliah was the large cistern that King Asa had made for defense against Baasha king of Israel; Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with the slain.

Comedian Jerry Seinfeld made the joke that landing a man on the moon—you do believe it happened, right?— may have been the worst thing that happened to humanity.  Now we have a point of comparison for our failures, as in, “I can’t believe they can put a man on the moon, but they can’t figure out a way to make a prescription bottle top that’s easy to open.”  Seinfeld ends the bit by joking that Neil Armstrong should have said, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for every whining, complaining [person] out there.”  

Human beings have this way of turning good things into something to complain about or worse, something very terrible, don’t they?  Take today’s passage, in verse 9—the writer of Jeremiah points out that Ishmael used the cistern that King Asa had dug, presumably to supply water for Jerusalem during a potential siege on Jerusalem some 300 years earlier (see 1 Kings 15), as a mass graveyard for some 70 men he mercilessly slaughtered.  This cistern, which was supposed to be a source of life, became a reminder of death.

Now, I trust that most of our reading audience aren’t mass murderers, so here’s the question for you: What are the good things in your life that you have turned bad?  Perhaps that job which was supposed to provide for the needs of your family and help build the Kingdom of God became the sole means by which you measure success. Or those kids who you’re supposed to groom into the image of Christ became your only reason for living.  Even hobbies which can relieve stress and give pleasure can become a means to escape life. You get the point—don’t turn the good things in your life into mush. Give it a serious thought to what I shared today. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for all the things that I have: family, friends, education, job, etc.  Help me keep these things in proper perspective, knowing all I have is Yours. If there is anything that I have turned into an idol, please bring it to light and help me to love You most.  

Bible Reading for Today:  1 Kings 19


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 19:16-30: And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.  23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

Questions to Consider

  1. What are some good things that the rich young man was able to do?
  2. What were the disciples able to do that this young man could not?
  3. What are the things that hold you like the rich young man?  Can you release them like the disciples?

Notes

  1. According to the rich young man, he was moral and even “loved his neighbor as himself.”  I’ll take him at his word, meaning he probably gave alms. So, in a sense, he was willing to follow God to a certain extent.
  2. However, when Jesus tells him to sell everything he possessed, he was unable to do it.  The disciples, in contrast, gave up everything to follow Jesus. I think this is how most Christians are:  we’ll follow Christ to a certain point, but beyond that, it’s too much.  
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Did you have an opportunity to be critical and truthful?  Were you discouraging in your words or tone, or did you do your best to encourage?  Did you honor God with praise and blessing today? It’s still not too late. Consider Ephesians 4:29: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Without using the word, today’s theme was idolatry.  In other words, what are the good things God has blessed us with that we have made bad by loving them too much?  Take a few minutes and recommit everything that you have jobs, family, homes, etc. back to the Lord.

July 15, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals from July 15-21 are provided by Pastor Yohan Lee of Remnant Church, New York City. Yohan graduated from University of Pennsylvania and Cairn University, where he studied theology.  He is married to Mandie, and they have four adorable children: Simon, Maggie, John and Abigail. 

 

Devotional Thought for Today

“Heroes and Villains”

Jeremiah 40:13-41:3

Now Johanan the son of Kareah and all the leaders of the forces in the open country came to Gedaliah at Mizpah 14 and said to him, “Do you know that Baalis the king of the Ammonites has sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to take your life?” But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam would not believe them. 15 Then Johanan the son of Kareah spoke secretly to Gedaliah at Mizpah, “Please let me go and strike down Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no one will know it. Why should he take your life, so that all the Judeans who are gathered about you would be scattered, and the remnant of Judah would perish?” 16 But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said to Johanan the son of Kareah, “You shall not do this thing, for you are speaking falsely of Ishmael.”

1 In the seventh month, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, of the royal family, one of the chief officers of the king, came with ten men to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, at Mizpah. As they ate bread together there at Mizpah,2 Ishmael the son of Nethaniah and the ten men with him rose up and struck down Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, with the sword, and killed him, whom the king of Babylon had appointed governor in the land. 3 Ishmael also struck down all the Judeans who were with Gedaliah at Mizpah, and the Chaldean soldiers who happened to be there.

After the Avengers Infinity War movie, a friend of mine tried to convince me that Thanos, the chief antagonist in the movie, was not so much evil as misguided.  For those of you who haven’t seen Infinity War (I don’t know where you’ve been), Thanos had a conviction that because resources like food and energy were finite and sentient life had grown to unsustainable numbers, life for half of the universe’s population would be better if the other half of the universe ceased to exist.  So my friend made the argument that from a certain point of view, Thanos could be considered a hero (which was actually how Thanos thought). Of course, my response was that anyone who tries to kill off half the living things in the universe has to be an evil guy; Captain America agreed with me (as did Ironman before he bit it… spoiler!)  

As ridiculous as this might sound, Hollywood isn’t always that different than real life.  People do all kinds of crazy things because they rationalize the ends justifying the means.  In today’s narrative, I bet you Ishmael thought he was doing the right thing. I also bet you a bunch of people left in Jerusalem agreed with him.  Think about it, in Jeremiah 39, we read that Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians, and Gedaliah was installed by the Babylonians to run Judah.  I bet you Ishmael and many of the remaining Israelites looked at Gedaliah as Nebuchadnezzar’s puppet and actually wanted him out. In some sense, I bet Ishmael, and perhaps many in Israel, saw himself as the hero who was going to spark a rebellion against their oppressors.  But of course, heroes don’t assassinate people.  

Here’s the point: Just because you aren’t leading a rebellion or assassinating government officials doesn’t mean you haven’t rationalized the ends justifying the means.  We’re all tempted to fib a little to cover up a mistake at work, or fudged on our resumes, or convinced yourself that you don’t need to mend that relationship. Either way, let’s just call it what it is: Rationalizing.  Hopefully, we haven’t gone so far as to call our villainous acts heroic; however, if this is indeed what we have been doing, then there is only one counter left on the table: repentance!  

Prayer: Heavenly Father, search my heart.  Is there something within me that needs to be brought to light and confessed.  If so, help me to face it honestly and act righteously. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  1 Kings 18


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 24:31-46: When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,[f] you did it to me.’  41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What are the similarities and differences between the sheep and the goats?
  2. Why are the goats so surprised?
  3. What are some things that you feel like God wants you to do lately that you haven’t done?

Notes

  1. Both the sheep and the goats have encountered similar types of people, but the sheep acted in love towards these people.  Both groups were surprised by the Lord’s reaction; it’s as if sheep never noticed their tender hearts, while goats never realized their callous hearts.  
  2. The scary part about this parable is that the goats were oblivious to the state of their hearts.  They thought they were doing fine, loving God, etc. But in reality, they were very far from him. I hope none of us will be unpleasantly surprised on the day of judgment.  
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Today’s theme was searching our hearts and making sure our actions align with our calling as children of light.  How has the Lord been speaking to you about your life and how you’re living it? Do you represent him well in this world?  Ask the Lord to reveal something that he wants to refine in you.

July 14, Sunday

Today’s blog, written by Jabez Yeo (who served for a long time at Remnant Church, NYC), was originally posted on October 19, 2014.  He was recently married to River. Congratulations. 

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Measure of True Success”

Jeremiah 7:27 

“When you tell them all this, they will not listen to you; when you call to them, they will not answer.” 

For most of my Christian life, I measured success in my service to God either by growth in attendance or the number of people accepting Christ. In one particular year, the Bible study I served in rarely had people attend (besides our leadership team), which made me feel dejected, wondering what exactly I was doing wrong. But the next year, I helped to start a new Bible study, and we had 20-25 people attending weekly with some coming to know the Lord. I would be lying if I said that some pride did not creep into my heart about my “awesome” leadership skills; which was especially ironic since I had spent the same amount of time and energy serving during both years! 

As we think about successful service to God, a good case study to consider is the prophet Jeremiah. He received the call to prophesy at an early age (Jer. 1:4-8) and faithfully preached the message of repentance to Judah. Sadly, he did not witness spiritual revival nor repentance; but instead, the wicked prospering (12:1-6), two deportations from Jerusalem (24-25), Jerusalem’s destruction (39), and an ill-advised escape to Egypt (43:1-7). Even more tragically, Jeremiah himself was not exempt from these trials but had to suffer the consequences of his people’s actions (43:6-7). 

Was Jeremiah ineffective because of unconfessed sin? This seems unlikely since he interceded for his people and included himself among the guilty (14:19-22). Then, was he not being faithful? This would definitely not be true since he gave 40 years of service and ministered to the last five kings of Judah. Furthermore, he was single by God’s command and did not have any children to carry on his name (16:2). He was beaten, placed in the stocks (20:2), thrown into jail, and into a cistern by his enemies (37-38). In terms of social persecution, he was plotted against (11:18-20; 26:7-15), mocked (20:7) and even the scroll which contained his prophecies was burned by King Jehoiakim, who was unwilling to listen to God (36). All things considered, the case could easily be made that Jeremiah was one of the most faithful men to have ever walked on this earth.

From Jeremiah’s life, it is clear that faithfulness and obedience doesn’t always translate to the results or the “success” that we want. And as we enter into a new season of serving God, this might be a lesson that some of us will experience. While some will be called to fertile ground, to people who will come to know Christ, others will be called, like Jeremiah, to hard soil, to a people who will not listen to us even as we call (7:27). Wherever God leads us to serve, let us remember that He is ultimately the one who brings spiritual growth (1 Cor. 3:5-7).  All we can do is obey His commandments and calling in our lives; let us surrender the rest to Him.  

Prayer: Lord, thank You that I am already successful in You regardless of whether the world sees me successful or a failure.  Please forgive me when my pride gets in the way and I fail to recognize that all good things in my life come from You.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Kings 17

July 13, Saturday

Today’s blog, written by Pastor Ryun Chang, was originally posted on March 16, 2014.

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Imitate Well”

1 John 3:11

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good.”

The former NBA player, the great Charles Barkley, perhaps the only man to slam Shaquille O’Neal to the floor, once said, “I’m not a role model. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.”  Many critics, assailing his remark as being irresponsible and evasive, reasoned that professional athletes, whose fans include many impressionable children, have obligations to be positive influences in society. In retrospect, it was a good thing Barkley said that, since he later made headlines for running sizable gambling debts and drunken driving.  

Certainly we need role models, especially children.  One Christian author wrote: “Our world is desperately in need of models worth following.  Authentic heroes. People of integrity, whose lives inspire us to do better, to climb higher, to stand taller.”  No athlete fits that bill better than Tim Tebow, who was previously the quarterback for the Denver Broncos. He thanks Jesus after every victory, has committed to chastity until marriage, and helps the poor, such as building a hospital in the Philippines.  Tebow says that for him, the goal of playing football “is to be a great role model that parents can look at their son and say, ‘That’s someone who is trying to do it the right way. . . . He is trying to honor God and do the right thing.’” That’s great and I’m so blessed and challenged to hear that, but if the Bible says anything at all, it is that sooner or later the so-called “heroes of faith” will disappoint their fans. 

The case in point is the aforementioned author, a leading Bible expositor in America who, after talking about the need for true heroes, pointed to King David as being such a man.  One example he gave to vouch for his character is the time when he crept up unnoticed, and cut off a corner of the robe worn by the sleeping King Saul, a man on a mission to kill David.  Afterwards, David, so conscience-stricken by his action, lamented, saying, “The LORD forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lift my hand against him . . . .”(1 Sam 24:6a).   I wonder whether David himself would have felt comfortable with such flattery or with the idea of becoming a role model for people living in the 21st century.  A man who committed murder, adultery, and evasion of responsibility that resulted in the deaths of 70,000 people (2 Sam. 24:12-17) would have probably said, “No, not me.”  

It was said earlier that our heroes in the Bible often disappoint us.  To that extent, Eugene Peterson offered a refreshingly candid view on David.  He wrote: “The narrator refuses to idealize or glamorize him to show that God’s sovereignty works through just such a mixed bag of human failures and sin. . . . The entire biblical story never lets us forget that it is a God’s story of our salvation, not a collection of moral achievements for use as a moral handbook.  This is the narrative of what God does to save us, not what we do to please him.” What does this mean? The life of David is intended for us to get excited about God, who continued to love and use him despite of him! If David were to say anything to today’s evangelicals enamored with him, or any other human heroes, even Tebow, he might have said: “Please, I am neither your hero nor your role model, only Jesus is.”  

I am sure Tebow would agree with that sentiment as well because he understands, as he said in the aforementioned quote (which I purposely left out), “[I’m] not perfect but everyday [I’m] trying to get better, [I’m] trying to honor God.”  Barkley is no hero, not necessarily because of his weak moments on and off the court (for we all have them, including Tebow), but his declaration is to free him so that he could live any way he desires. Tebow’s declaration, on the other hand, is to limit his freedom so that he does not do whatever he pleases; but in order to please his hero, the one whom he calls “my Lord Jesus Christ.”  It’s a good thing to try to be a hero to the discouraged and deprived people “just as [we] also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1b NKJ).  Inasmuch as salty food creates thirst for water, our lives must create a thirst for Jesus Christ who, like an offensive tackle throwing his body to create a path for his running back, gave up his body to save us.  So how is your life? Is anyone seeing Christ through your life? Or have you given that up for more freedom to please yourself? It’s something to think about.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Kings 15-16