May 24, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Fairness of God”

Exodus 30:11-16

Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them, each one must pay the Lord a ransom for his life at the time he is counted. Then no plague will come on them when you number them. 13 Each one who crosses over to those already counted is to give a half shekel, according to the sanctuary shekel, which weighs twenty gerahs. This half shekel is an offering to the Lord. 14 All who cross over, those twenty years old or more, are to give an offering to the Lord. 15 The rich are not to give more than a half shekel and the poor are not to give less when you make the offering to the Lord to atone for your lives. 16 Receive the atonement money from the Israelites and use it for the service of the tent of meeting. It will be a memorial for the Israelites before the Lord, making atonement for your lives.”

Serving at a church with about 100 children, I’ve noticed a common behavior in all children – an innate need for fairness.  Whether the fairness is exhibited by something as simple as getting the same number of gummy bears during snack time to something as big as getting treated equally as their peers, I’ve noticed that all children want equal treatment.  Any behavior that falls outside of this standard will usually be proceeded by a loud, “That’s not fair!” At the heart of it, however, I recognize that these are the beginning seeds of justice. We know that God is a just God, and if we are created in His image, then, all humans have some degree of desire to see justice in the world.

In today’s passage, we see for the first time in Israel’s history a census taking place.  During the census, God tells Moses that all who are counted must pay a ransom for their life.  However, Moses says that the rich must not give more than half a shekel and the poor must not give less than half a shekel (v.15).  In other words, God requires all to pay an equal amount regardless of their socioeconomic status. “How is that fair?” you might wonder.  Why does the rich who live in abundance need to pay the same amount as the poor who are lacking and in need? We certainly see this discussion constantly occurring in politics.  Well, it might surprise you to know that God does this precisely because He is a just and fair God.

Wealth and status did not matter in the eyes of God when he looked at each individual.  He required all to give the same amount because He see us equally – equally loved and equally in need of grace.  God’s desire was to restore all His people to right standing with Him and this meant everyone needed their sins atoned for.  Thus, all were required to give equally to the priest what was needed for their sins to be made right. God sees all souls equally precious and there is no outward circumstance that can affect the state of our souls—as Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Let’s take some time today to reflect on whether we are living a life that seeks justice through worldly fairness or justice in the eyes of God.  Are you frustrated or grumbling about something of outward significance or are you fighting for the justice of people’s lives and souls? True equality is when we see all of God’s people under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Prayer: God, I thank You that You do not look at merit or status, but You see us all equally.  Break my heart for what breaks Yours. And help me to fight for the things that lead people to you.  In Jesus’ name. Amen

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 13


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 7:1-6: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What does Jesus warn the people against?
  2. Why does Jesus give this warning?
  3. Jesus did not prohibit judgment, but he required fair judgment (Jn. 7:24)– that we would judge others by the same standard we judge ourselves.  Are there people or situations in your life where you are setting different standards than the ones you are living by?

Notes

  1. Jesus tells the people not to judge
  2. Jesus warns the people against passing judgment because when we do so we will be judged in a similar manner.
  3. Personal.

Evening Reflection

Take some time to reflect on your day.  Did you encounter any unfairness or injustices throughout the day?  How did you respond? Also, did you pass any unfair judgments on others?  Take some time in repentance and ask the Lord to help you see people the way God sees them and to respond to people the way Jesus would respond to them.

May 23, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Day and Night, Night and Day, Let Incense Arise”

Exodus 30:1-10

“Make an altar of acacia wood for burning incense. 2 It is to be square, a cubit long and a cubit wide, and two cubits high—its horns of one piece with it.3 Overlay the top and all the sides and the horns with pure gold, and make a gold molding around it. 4 Make two gold rings for the altar below the molding—two on each of the opposite sides—to hold the poles used to carry it. 5 Make the poles of acacia wood and overlay them with gold. 6 Put the altar in front of the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law—before the atonement cover that is over the tablets of the covenant law—where I will meet with you. 7 “Aaron must burn fragrant incense on the altar every morning when he tends the lamps. 8 He must burn incense again when he lights the lamps at twilight so incense will burn regularly before the Lord for the generations to come. 9 Do not offer on this altar any other incense or any burnt offering or grain offering, and do not pour a drink offering on it. 10 Once a year Aaron shall make atonement on its horns. This annual atonement must be made with the blood of the atoning sin offering for the generations to come. It is most holy to the Lord.”

One of my favorite worship songs came out in 2012 titled, “Worthy of it All”.  The lyrics begin with a declaration to God that “all the saint and angels, they bow before Your throne.  All the elders cast their crowns before the Lamb of God.” And as the song reaches the chorus it gives the reasoning to this declaration, because “You are worthy of it all, Jesus.  For from you are all things and to you are all things. You deserve the glory.” What a beautiful picture that captures who God is and what He has done for us. But the song doesn’t just end there.  As we hit the bridge, the song repeats one simple line, “Day and night, night and day, let incense arise!” To understand the imagery of incense we must turn to Scripture, which reveals that incense often times signifies the prayers lifted to God as a sweet aroma of thanksgiving and praise.  In light of this, the song comes together in a new way. Not only must we recognize God is worthy of it all—because for from him and to him are all things—but we must respond to this truth by lifting up prayers day and night, night and day as a response of thanksgiving to his gift of grace.

Today’s passage discusses the altar of incense that it to be built and placed near the ark of the testimony where God will meet with his people (v.6).  And God tells Aaron to burn incense every morning and every night so that there will be a “perpetual incense before the Lord throughout your generations” (v.9).  As we recognize the gift of atonement by God’s grace, evidenced in Exodus 29, our response must be to give regular prayers before the altar of incense.

I know that many Christians struggle with the idea of praying to a holy God wondering if they can approach God with their requests in light of all the things they’ve done.  However, we must remember that God’s gift of grace settled all of that on the cross so that we may approach Him. We do not pray to be in good standing with Him, but we pray as a response of thanksgiving for His ultimate sacrifice.  Through this we can now freely go to the Father with our requests, worries, and praises that they may arise day and night, night and day. Today take some time to reflect on your prayer life. Do you pray to get in right standing with God?  Or are you living in grace and truth of God’s gift to you? Remember this is a free gift, and as you receive this gift, may you lift up incense all the days of your life as an offering of thanksgiving to the Father who gave it all for you.

Prayer: God thank You for Your gift of grace on the cross.  Forgive me for the ways I have tried to earn this gift.  Help me to cultivate a life that lights incense of prayers day and night as a response to this incredible gift of grace. In Jesus name. Amen

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 12


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 86:1-13: Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
2 Guard my life, for I am faithful to you; save your servant who trusts in you. You are my God; 3 have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to you all day long. 4 Bring joy to your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in you. 5 You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. 6 Hear my prayer, Lord; listen to my cry for mercy. 7 When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. 8 Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. 9 All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. 10 For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God. 11 Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. 12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. 13 For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why does King David petition to God (v.1)?
  2. After King David gives his reasoning for his prayer, what does he do for the rest of the chapter?
  3. What is an area in your life that you need God to teach you His ways in order that you may live with an undivided heart fearing His name?

Notes

  1. David prays to God because he is poor and needy.
  2. He states the attributes of God’s character and who he knows God to be (v.2-10). He then asks God to teach him His ways (v.11)
  3. Personal.

Evening Reflection

Take some time to reflect on your day.  Were you able to lift prayers up to the Lord throughout your day? Or were you caught up in the busyness of life?  Take some time today to lift a prayer of thanksgiving for the work He has done, for the provision He provided today, and for the work He will continue to do.

May 22, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Consecration to Communion”

Exodus 29:26-46

Aaron’s sacred garments will belong to his descendants so that they can be anointed and ordained in them. 30 The son who succeeds him as priest and comes to the tent of meeting to minister in the Holy Place is to wear them seven days. 31 “Take the ram for the ordination and cook the meat in a sacred place. 32 At the entrance to the tent of meeting, Aaron and his sons are to eat the meat of the ram and the bread that is in the basket. 33 They are to eat these offerings by which atonement was made for their ordination and consecration. But no one else may eat them, because they are sacred. 34 And if any of the meat of the ordination ram or any bread is left over till morning, burn it up. It must not be eaten, because it is sacred. 35 “Do for Aaron and his sons everything I have commanded you, taking seven days to ordain them. 36 Sacrifice a bull each day as a sin offering to make atonement. Purify the altar by making atonement for it, and anoint it to consecrate it. 37 For seven days make atonement for the altar and consecrate it. Then the altar will be most holy, and whatever touches it will be holy. 38 “This is what you are to offer on the altar regularly each day: two lambs a year old. 39 Offer one in the morning and the other at twilight. 40 With the first lamb offer a tenth of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with a quarter of a hin of oil from pressed olives, and a quarter of a hin of wine as a drink offering. 41 Sacrifice the other lamb at twilight with the same grain offering and its drink offering as in the morning—a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord. 42 “For the generations to come this burnt offering is to be made regularly at the entrance to the tent of meeting, before the Lord. There I will meet you and speak to you; 43 there also I will meet with the Israelites, and the place will be consecrated by my glory. 44 “So I will consecrate the tent of meeting and the altar and will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. 45 Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. 46 They will know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God.

Something I distinctly remember about my college experience was the continuous love and care that I felt by people who would open up their home to cook for others and myself.  As we would break bread, there would be a natural fellowship, comfort, and care that everybody in the room would feel. It’s not a coincidence that much of the fellowship we see in Scripture is precisely through the sharing of a meal.  I realize now that my college leaders took the time to cook and eat with people to bring a sense of comfort and love the way Jesus brought people of different backgrounds together. And it was this experience that drew me closer to the love of Christ as I was brought into deep community and fellowship with other believers.

In today’s passage, after Aaron and his family go through the long consecration and anointing process, they are instructed to eat the food that was given as an offering.  It is important to note that the eating came after the washing, clothing, and atonement process.  The reason is because the eating was to signify the continuing relationship of the priest with God.  However, God does not stop there in His pursuit for relationship. At the end of Exodus 29, God tells Aaron and his sons to offer a continual burnt offering throughout the generations.  He promises that through this offering God would once again meet with His chosen people and speak to them in order that “they shall know that I am the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them” (Ex. 29:45-46).  God’s purpose in all the elaborate sacrifices we read throughout this chapter was for this very reason – that God would once again commune with His chosen people that they would know He is their God.

I received my call to ministry my junior year in college after experiencing incredible healing and love through the community that God had brought in my life.  I credit the many people who cooked for me, broke bread with me, and offered their time, resources, and energy to reveal the love of Christ that I may ultimately commune with God myself.  Let’s reflect today on some of the ways that we can extend hospitality to others that others may be pointed to Christ. God’s desire is that all may know He is their God, and we have the amazing privilege to partner with Him in bringing others to the presence of God.  May our lives be one that brings people to encounter this amazing God who desires to commune with everyone.

Prayer: God I thank You for your love that continuously pursues a relationship with me.  And thank You for the people that You brought in my life to demonstrate this love that I may draw closer to You.  Help me to be agent of this love to others that they may encounter you as well. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 11


Lunch Break Study:

Read Luke 14:15-24: When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” 16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 
17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ 19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ 20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’ 21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ 22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ 23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

Questions to Consider

  1. Many were invited to the great banquet, but many made excuses. What do these excuses signify? (v.18-20)
  2. What was the master’s response to the excuses? (v.21)
  3. Are there any excuses you are making in your life right now that is preventing you from joining the great banquet?

Notes

  1. These excuses reveal they were more interested in their personal/worldly endeavors than feasting in the kingdom of God (v.15).
  2. The master became angry and ordered the servant to go into the streets and alleys to bring the poor, crippled, bind, and lame.
  3. Personal.

Evening Reflection

This morning we discussed the ultimate purpose for the sacrifices that God called Aaron and his sons to perform – to restore people back to a relationship with God.  This afternoon we read about God’s invitation for people to join in on his great banquet – the kingdom of God – however, many made excuses. Reflect on the day. Did your life extend hospitality to others that they would commune with God?  Or did you make excuses because of busyness or personal desires? Take some time to reflect on ways you can join in on God’s work and lead others to communion with God.

May 21, Tuesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Atoning Sacrifice”

Exodus 29:10-25

 “Bring the bull to the front of the tent of meeting, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head. 11 Slaughter it in the Lord’s presence at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 12 Take some of the bull’s blood and put it on the horns of the altar with your finger, and pour out the rest of it at the base of the altar. 13 Then take all the fat on the internal organs, the long lobe of the liver, and both kidneys with the fat on them, and burn them on the altar. 14 But burn the bull’s flesh and its hide and its intestines outside the camp. It is a sin offering. 15 “Take one of the rams, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head.16 Slaughter it and take the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar. 17 Cut the ram into pieces and wash the internal organs and the legs, putting them with the head and the other pieces. 18 Then burn the entire ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the Lord, a pleasing aroma, a food offering presented to the Lord. 19 “Take the other ram, and Aaron and his sons shall lay their hands on its head.20 Slaughter it, take some of its blood and put it on the lobes of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the big toes of their right feet. Then splash blood against the sides of the altar. 21 And take some blood from the altar and some of the anointing oil and sprinkle it on Aaron and his garments and on his sons and their garments. Then he and his sons and their garments will be consecrated. 22 “Take from this ram the fat, the fat tail, the fat on the internal organs, the long lobe of the liver, both kidneys with the fat on them, and the right thigh. 23 From the basket of bread made without yeast, which is before the Lord, take one round loaf, one thick loaf with olive oil mixed in, and one thin loaf. 24 Put all these in the hands of Aaron and his sons and have them wave them before the Lord as a wave offering. 25 Then take them from their hands and burn them on the altar along with the burnt offering for a pleasing aroma to the Lord, a food offering presented to the Lord.”

Two months ago, my dog of 17 years passed away.  Although I had prepared myself for this sad day, the grief was one that I still cannot explain.  Most of it came, when looking back, from the realization that my dog had been with me for more years of my life than not.  She saw me through my rebellious, absent teenage years to my move to college that left me seeing her only a few times a year, until I moved back home during the last years of her life.  As I saw all the transitions that she had gone through to cater to my absent lifestyle, I realized her undying loyalty and faithfulness to me until the end. It was precisely this realization that brought me so much grief as I regretted my choices to not be a better caretaker.

Today’s passage highlights the unusual process of laying hands on an animal’s head before slaughtering it before the Lord.  This process was meant to symbolize the transference of sin from a guilty person onto an animal that, then, is slaughtered as a substitutionary sacrifice.  We know that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23) and to approach a holy God we must be cleansed by an atoning sacrifice. What a humbling experience: to put your hands on the head of an innocent animal as you confess the sins that you should die for, and then witness its innocent death in your place.

Although the death of my dog and the regret I felt in no way compares to witnessing something die in place of my sins, I can see the weightiness that God desired for all people to understand during this process.  We must recognize that the road to sin is death and it separates us from the God who desires to be in a relationship with us. However, God does not leave us here; He gives us a gift – an ultimate sacrifice that will take our place forever.  “For the wages of sin [may be] death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

Today let us remember the cost of sin and the sacrifice it took, but may it not leave us in despair or regret, but thanksgiving for Jesus’ work on the cross.   And most of all, may it lead us to action to pursue a life of purity because we know, through the work of Christ, God does not just delight in sacrifice and takes no pleasure in burnt offerings, but a broken and contrite heart he does not despise (Ps. 51:16-17).

Prayer: God I thank You for Your love that moved You to stand in the place of my death.  And thank You that I may now freely approach Your throne. Help me to never forget the cost of my sins, but may it lead me to a life of purity that seeks to honor You in all things.  In Jesus name I pray. Amen

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 10


Lunch Break Study

Read Romans 6:15-23: What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! 16 Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?
17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. 19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Questions to Consider

  1. What are the effects of living as a slave to sin compared to living as a slave to righteousness?
  2. What is the mark that you are not a slave to sin but to righteousness?
  3. This passage reveals that we are either a slave of sin or a slave of righteousness, for we cannot serve two masters.  Is there any sin in your life that is preventing you from living in righteousness?

Notes

  1. Slaves of sin will reap death (v.16) while slaves of righteousness will live in holiness and eternal life (v.22).
  2. A life of obedience (v.16).
  3. Personal.

Evening Reflection

Take some time to reflect on the day.  Were you living in the righteousness given to you through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross?  Or were you living in sin? If you find yourself discouraged at the sins of your life, remember we are living under grace because of Christ.  That does not mean we can continue living in sin, as we read in today’s lunch break study, but it does mean God’s mercies are new every morning. As you go in repentance, ask the Lord for strength to live in obedience and righteousness tomorrow.

May 20, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals from May 20-26 are provided by Jennifer Kim, a staff at Catalyst Agape Church (New Jersey). Jennifer, a graduate of Boston University, spent a year in Shanghai as one-year intern from 2013-14. She is currently attending Alliance Theological Seminary.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Priesthood of All Believers”

Exodus 29:1-9

“This is what you are to do to consecrate them, so they may serve me as priests: Take a young bull and two rams without defect. 2 And from the finest wheat flour make round loaves without yeast, thick loaves without yeast and with olive oil mixed in, and thin loaves without yeast and brushed with olive oil. 3 Put them in a basket and present them along with the bull and the two rams. 4 Then bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance to the tent of meeting and wash them with water. 5 Take the garments and dress Aaron with the tunic, the robe of the ephod, the ephod itself and the breastpiece. Fasten the ephod on him by its skillfully woven waistband. 6 Put the turban on his head and attach the sacred emblem to the turban. 7 Take the anointing oil and anoint him by pouring it on his head. 8 Bring his sons and dress them in tunics 9 and fasten caps on them. Then tie sashes on Aaron and his sons. The priesthood is theirs by a lasting ordinance. Then you shall ordain Aaron and his sons.”

When I first started as the youth pastor at Catalyst 5 years ago, I was convinced that I would easily relate to our youth kids.  I was 23 at the time—meaning, the age gap was only about 10 years, I was technologically savvy, I understood pop culture, and the list goes on.  Well, it took less than a month to realize that I was completely wrong. I not only struggled to understand their interests, but I couldn’t understand some of their lingo.  Twenty-three certainly is not old, but these kids made me feel old, and worst of all, irrelevant!

Often, when we read books containing the Mosaic law, we ask ourselves, “How is this relevant?”  I mean how many of us have tried to do the one-year Bible plan but gave up when the long list of laws continued for the next 100 plus chapters?  So why would God utilize the first books of the Bible to go through the meticulous details of the Old Testament law? Well the simple answer is quite relevant, as a matter of fact, it’s life changing.  It was to reveal the cost and weight of sin in order to point humanity to the ultimate Messiah who would take on the sins of the world.

Exodus 29 begins with the detailed procedure of consecrating God’s chosen leader.  Priests were chosen to represent others before God, and they had the assignment of entering into the tabernacle where God’s presence dwelled in order to atone for the sins of others.  This elaborate consecration process was essential because only a holy person could face God’s presence and survive. Although not all of us are called to be pastors or ministers, 1 Peter 2:5 reveals that through the work of Christ we are all a holy priesthood.  As Jesus Christ stood in the place of sinners, offering himself as a holy and blameless offering, he sanctified all by his own blood and suffering (Heb. 2:10). As Jesus stood in our place, he tore the veil in order that we ourselves may enter His presence as a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices.

Today let’s remember that God calls all of us chosen and a royal priesthood.  As we give God thanksgiving for His sacrifice that we may freely enter His presence, let us also remember that this came at a price, and a heart of thanksgiving is always moved to action. 1 Peter 2:5 reveals that action is to offer spiritual sacrifices to God.  Take some time and ask yourselves, what can you give God today as your spiritual sacrifice?

Prayer: God thank You for Your ultimate sacrifice that I never have to atone for my own sins.  Continue to build me into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to You. In Jesus name we pray. Amen!

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 9


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Peter 2:4-10 “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Contrast the status appointed for the believer and the unbeliever.
  2. What assignment does God give to those He calls a royal priesthood?
  3. What is one way that you can declare the praise of God through the testimony of God’s work in your life?

Notes

  1. The unbelievers will be rejected (v.7), they will cause others to stumble (v.8), and they themselves will stumble because of their disobedience (v.9). Believers are called “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (v. 9).
  2. To “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (v.9).
  3. Personal.

Evening Reflection

Today we discussed the sacrifice of the ultimate Lamb who atoned for our sins that we may freely enter into God’s presence.  Now, through Jesus’ sacrifice, we are called a royal priesthood; however, this title comes with a commission to declare the praises of God that all may enter into His presence. Take some time to reflect on your day.  Did your words, actions, and thoughts declare the praise of Him? Would others be able to see you as a royal priesthood of Christ? Write down specific ways you can offer spiritual sacrifices to the Lord that others may know their priesthood in Christ Jesus through your life.

May 19, Sunday

Today’s AMI Spiritual Food for Thought is provided by Jin Ha Lee who serves at Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia. Jin Ha, a CPA, graduated from Drexel University and got married to Aerin last November.

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Giving the Benefit of the Doubt—a Loving Thing to Do”

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

Ephesians 4:1-3

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

In Matthew 22:39, Jesus makes it clear that the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” However, we face conflicts everywhere, from work, family, friendships, and even church. When conflicts go long or deep, it’s easy for “loving one another” to take a backseat in our hearts. It can be especially challenging when conflicts arise in our church.

However, God teaches and equips us to combat division by showing us through these verses what love looks like. One practical way to show love is to give the benefit of the doubt. (v7 “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”)

During a conflict, a vulnerable area that the enemy attacks is our thoughts. When we begin to misinterpret the other person and question his or her intentions, it can begin to sow bitterness in our hearts. However, it is in those times that we need to prayerfully and consciously make a stand to say, “I will give this person the benefit of the doubt.” This protects our hearts against bitterness and removes the enemy’s foothold. When we give benefit of the doubt, it is a loving way to see others and disarms the disillusionment that the other person was out to “get us”.

I need to give the benefit of the doubt because I need it too. I can give mercy because I’ve been shown mercy. When God sees all that is in our hearts including our sin, He sees Jesus in us. Therefore, we can try to see Jesus in our brothers and sisters in Christ. We must remember that we are all a work-in-progress who are constantly loved by God.

It is a privilege to build up one another in this race of faith. So, let’s refocus on what God intended our church to be. We are a body of Christ that works together to build up one another with spiritual gifts that the Holy Spirit distributed (1 Cor. 12). Love is the most excellent way.

There may be conflicts due to direct offenses that requires confrontation. This passage also teaches us that love is patient (v4), perhaps in timing and communication. Love perseveres through multiple hurtful conversations to reach mutual understanding and unity. But whether the situation gets resolved or not, we are “…bearing with one another in love…” out of love for Jesus and His precious church.

Are you experiencing conflict? Let’s bring it before the Lord and pray for wise counsel. Even when our love has run out, the Lord has an infinite amount of steadfast and unfailing love waiting to cover us.

Prayer: Lord, You love us and Your church so much. God, though we come across conflict, please give us humility, gentleness, and patience to bear with one another in love. Please touch our hearts so that we can respond with Spirit filled love, to see our own faults, to confess, to forgive, to reconcile, and to run together as a church for You. Thank You that there will be one day when we will be in heaven, fully reconciled, and enjoy perfect fellowship with You and each other.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 8.

May 18, Saturday

Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought is written by Claudia Robbie who serves at Journey Church of Atlanta.

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“I Matter, to Him”

Psalm 46:10

He says, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Overwhelmed, confused, anxious, doubtful… that is what I have been feeling. When I feel this way, I try to dress it up and hide those things. The temptation to put on a front is very real, but what I’ve learned in the last few years is that I need to be honest about where I am (even if it is just with myself). When I hide and pretend, I don’t allow God to speak and move in my life; I become blind to the habits and things I depend on other than God. I end up being very destructive to those around me and to myself.

A few years ago, I started going to therapy after I had a difficult emotional breakdown. It was God’s gentle hand finally helping me to address the things that I was blind to and bound in. It didn’t feel gentle, it hurt like nothing I had ever experienced and there were thoughts to end the hurting, but I know it was God’s gentle love for me. I got help for some intensely traumatic moments in my life and the behaviors I engaged in to help me cope from the time I was 10 to the age of 37.

In the course of my healing I was drawn to Psalm 46:10 “Be still and know that I am God”. In reading some commentary on this simple verse, I found that being still didn’t mean ceasing activity, but it meant to stop striving, to let go, to surrender.

As I learned to be still and rest in who God was, I gained freedom and I could finally stop striving over whether I mattered to people around me. You see, my core lie was that I didn’t matter, and many events of my life contributed to the strengthening of that lie. I always felt like I had to fight to matter and I didn’t care who I hurt in the process of fulfilling my need. When God brought me into counseling and I faced my hurts and owned the responsibility of hurting/burdening those around me to fulfill a need that only God could, I finally embraced that I mattered to God—the proof is the cross. Because He filled this deepest need of my heart through His Son Jesus, I could stop the striving and I could be still in His presence.

In this season, when so many things are in turmoil in my life, God is gently reminding me again to be still and as He guards the things I have learned and experienced in Him, I know that He will be glorified, and everything, in the end, will be okay, in Christ.  

Is God asking you to be still? Are you in a situation or a season where you don’t know where to go, what to do, how to hold it together? Do you feel His gentle call and comforting touch even amid your sorrow and grief? Be still and know that He is God.

Prayer: Father, would You draw us into Your presence and help us to be still. Remind us of all that we know and have experienced of You. May You guard us from the enemy who wants to destroy, and restore our hope and peace even in the midst of our struggles and sins.  

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 6-7.