March 30, Monday

Today’s AMI Devotional QT is a reprint of Kate Moon’s blog originally posted on May 6, 2014.  Kate continues to serve the Lord in E. Asia. 

 

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning

“Meaningless Talk and Its Effect”

Titus 1:10-11

“For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain.” 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7jlGRq8xZ4

“Smelly Cat, Smelly Cat what are they feeding you? / Smelly Cat, Smelly Cat it’s not your fault / They won’t take you to the vet / You’re obviously not their favorite pet / You may not be a bed of roses / And you’re no friend to those with noses . . .”

~Phoebe Buffay, Friends

This song is ridiculous; no one can take it seriously.  It’s almost not even funny how bad this song is. Meaningless talk.  And this is what Paul calls the talk of some people in the church.

What is interesting is that Paul focuses on the heart motive and effect more than the content.  It’s as if the content almost didn’t warrant mentioning: that is how meaningless it was. For Paul, the main issue was that some people’s hearts were full of rebellion, deception and greed, and the effect of their teaching was disruption and confusion.  These were serious issues which needed to be addressed.

In the video above, when Phoebe teaches this meaningless talk to her friends, it is relatively harmless – even somewhat entertaining.  But there is another kind of teaching and influence that, though the content is just as devoid of true significance, can have a great negative effect on the community.

While a majority of us may not be in an official position to teach in the church, each of us does influence others with the words we say.  Those of the “circumcision group” told others that they needed to be circumcised as well as believe in Jesus in order to be truly saved. Today, we can see how meaningless and silly this sounds, but back then, it was an idea that seriously confused people because of the cultural background they were coming from, where circumcision was a sign that you belonged to the people of God.

What do we truly believe about the gospel?  Do we ever tell others that they need to do certain things if they are “true” Christians, putting a burden on them that Christ never intended?  What is our heart behind saying these things?

Prayer: Dear Lord, would you check my heart and see if there is any deception in me?  Any area in which I’m confused? Or any heart motive that is not right? Would you watch over the words of my mouth?  Rather than meaningless talk, may they be filled with your life-giving words of truth. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 64


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 3:1-5, 7-9: “Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. 2 Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. 3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence . . .  5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews . . . 7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ 8 . . . I consider them garbage, 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 is through faith in Christ . . . .”

Questions to Consider

  1. When Paul warns the Philippians against people who insisted that circumcision was necessary for salvation, why do you think he tells them to rejoice (v. 1)?
  2. What were the true signs of belonging to God (v. 3)?
  3. What is Paul calling “loss” and “garbage” (vv. 7-8)?  How about us? Where do we place our confidence?

Notes

  1. This kind of teaching (i.e., telling people they need to do something more in order to be truly saved) has the effect of robbing people of their joy.  To counter this effect, Paul exhorts them to rejoice!
  2. Faith in Jesus and good works produced by faith (service to God done through the filling and power of the Holy Spirit).
  3. All his prior achievements that he felt justified his standing before God, no longer held any value to the apostle.  Yet how often do we have it backwards, placing our confidence in the “garbage,” while considering our identity in Jesus to be of little worth.

Evening Reflection

Did I walk through this day, confident and secure, because of who I have found myself to be in Jesus Christ?  Or did I respond to people and situations in insecurity because I had been basing my confidence on my abilities, performance, or being well-liked?  What idea of the gospel did I give others today?

If you lost sight, ask Jesus for forgiveness and the grace to help you raise him to the highest place once again, as the only Savior, the one and only true source of confidence.  Then praise him. And rejoice!

March 29, Sunday

Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, prepared by then-staff at RWC in Manhattan, was originally posted on September 29, 2013.

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Worth Living in the Fear of the Lord”

Psalm 92:6-11

The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this: 7 that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever; 8 but you, O Lord, are on high forever. 9 For behold, your enemies, O Lord, for behold, your enemies shall perish; all evildoers shall be scattered. 10 But you have exalted my horn like that of the wild ox; you have poured over me fresh oil. 11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies; my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.

In this morning’s Psalm, we find that wisdom comes with knowing our own mortality. Even if people engage in evil and seem to flourish, they are like grass that withers. This theme and truth is also seen in the book of Ecclesiastes. All people, whether they live righteously or pursue evil, will meet the end in this life. Yet, there is hope in the life that God will establish. In the midst of the flourishing of evil, God still exalts the psalmist and anoints his head with oil.

Following God and living righteously are difficult when seeking to do it on our own strength. We see people who cheat and work the system to get ahead, and it seems as though they succeed without being held accountable for their unethical behavior. As in Psalm 73, we look at all of this and are tempted to go along with the rest of the world. 

Yet, the psalmist here shows us that it is worth living in the fear of the Lord, in righteousness, because God will exalt us and bless us. There is fullness of life in God, and even if the evil and the wicked seem to flourish, we are encouraged to trust that God will exalt us. 

Prayer: Lord, thank you for continually directing my steps and guiding me into truth.  You continually show me your will and teach me your ways. You have always been my Guide even when I did not perceive that you were there, and you will never stop being my Guide.  Declare that God will guide you in all your ways!

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 63

March 28, Saturday

Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey, was first posted on October 9, 2013. 

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Connection with God”

Luke 10:40-42

But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” 

It is important to be committed to building our personal prayer life. This is the reason we are still on the topic of prayer. If you want a healthy body, there needs to be consistency in healthy living. Likewise, if you want a healthy prayer life, you have to work on consistency.

Martha chose to serve instead of choosing to connect (i.e., intimate, close relationship with the Lord). It took me a long time to learn that connection with God is not the same thing as serving in ministry for Christ. If our service is not from connection, we will have similar reactions as those of Martha; we will get upset and get angry at the people close to us and even get angry at Jesus by saying, “Lord, don’t you care?” 

Are things bothering you? Are you getting upset at people around you? Let’s take some time to connect with and abide in Christ. It is not His will that we serve out of brokenness or hurt, for He cares about our heart. He cares about what is inside of the cup more than what is on the outside. We can put much effort cleaning the wrong things, which was Martha’s focus. 

In your connection today, give Him all your bitterness and judgmental attitudes toward others. Take time to receive and release forgiveness in your prayer time. What Jesus wants to do in the house of our hearts is more important than what we can do in our service for Him.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me to forgive those toward whom I feel bitter.  Lord, help me to forgive that one person in my life whom I just cannot seem to forgive.  Powerfully remind me of your forgiveness of my unpayable debt. Fill me with the Holy Spirit that I may forgive.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 61-62

March 27, Friday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by Pastor Peter Yoon of Kairos Christian Church in San Diego, was originally posted on May 27, 2014.

 

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning

“Dealing with Our Sins”

Jude 1:5-7

Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. 6 And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. 7 In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.

Sadly, when it comes to making choices, some choose disobedience over obedience. Perhaps it is more difficult to obey, or we know all too well that we will be forgiven with just a prayer away. But do we really want to choose sin over holiness? Throughout the Bible, we see that obedience to God’s Word leads to a blessed life. Psalm 1 compares the life of a blessed person to a wicked person: While one stands as a prosperous tree bearing fruit, the other is depicted as chaff that is blown by the wind. The recipients of the letter to Jude also resorted to twisting the idea of God’s grace and licensing themselves to immorality. 

The writer warns the believers that there are still severe consequences to disobedience and immorality, and the fruit that sinfulness bears is stark and destructive. In Genesis 3, we see the fall of man; then only a chapter later in Genesis 4, we see its devastating fruit: cold-blooded, vengeful murder. The slippery path towards destruction can be quick and overwhelmingly horrifying. 

We, at times, fool ourselves into thinking that we can get a handle on our sins. And as long as no one else knows about them, we can hide them or manage them. At other times, we might rationalize that our sins are not really hurting anybody else. However, whether the sins are visible or invisible, there is a spiritual reality that God is grieved and displeased. Our Father desires that we become more like His Son, Jesus, in every way. While He is patient, eventually He brings discipline as a loving Father, and no discipline may seem pleasant at the time, but that unpleasantness pales in comparison to bearing the full fruit of sinfulness. 

Today is the day—especially because we are living in such a turbulent moment in history— to confess your sins. If you have been holding onto them, confess them before the Lord.

Prayer: Lord, I confess my sins before You (specifically name them). I understand that my sins have kept me from being intimate with You. Please forgive me. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today:  Isaiah 60


Lunch Break Study  

Read 1 John 1:5-10: This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

Questions to Consider 

  1. What is true about God’s nature in these passages? 
  2. What is it that purifies us from all sin? 
  3. In light of God’s faithfulness and the blood of Jesus, do you understand what it takes for you to receive God’s forgiveness rather than His discipline? 

 Notes  

  1. Here, it is crucial to take note of what the author does notsay. “Darkness” is not simply equivalent to sin or wrongdoing, but it is the realm that opposes and is hostile to God. This realm is characterized by disobedience and lack of relationship to God. Thus, John exhorts Christians not to walk in darkness. Darkness is not a synonym for “indwelling sin.” Darkness and light are not realities that are within each of us. Rather, they are realities greater than and external to us. Darkness and light are two opposing forces, each making their competing claims upon us. We are challenged to decide in which circle we will choose to live, and then we endeavor to live within it. This is to live by the truth.
  2. Only the blood of Jesus has the power to purify our sins. Our confession yields to the work of Jesus’ blood to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Evening Reflection

Did you take time today confessing your sins before the Lord? For some reason, it seems easier to notice the sins of others than your own. Allow the Holy Spirit to convict you today of your sins rather than being distracted or discouraged by the sins of others. Confess them.

March 26, Thursday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Joe Suh who serves as a pastor intern at the Church of Southland (Anaheim, California).   

 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“We Are Not Alone”

Hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

For those who know me personally, they know that I am extreme extrovert.  I truly love being surrounded by people and feed off the energy of others.  So, as you can imagine, this “Safer at Home” situation is not the best for me.  As much as I love spending time with my wife and children, I also have a true need to interact with other people.  Maybe it is working for you and you are enjoying the isolation; I can’t say the same about me. 

The current would we live in is separate and apart.  We are “siloed” in our own little world. As much as we are trying to stay connected, I can’t help but feel a little isolated.  Even going to the market or running an errand away from the home does not satisfy my desire to be in contact with other people.

As Christians, we are called to be a community of believers.  We are not created to be wholly independent people who are completely self-sufficient.  God designed us to be completely dependent on Him and interdependent upon one another within our community.  We see this very clearly in Genesis 2:18 “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’”  So, whether an extrovert or introvert, to varying degrees we all need each other.

So then, what do we do in times like these?  How do we still function as a community of believers?  How do we stay connected with each other? There are so many people in our communities who are in need.  There is true fear and anxiousness, not only about the spread of Covid-19, but about the future of our economy, jobs, schools, churches, families, and the list goes on.  

As we attempt to “social distance” ourselves from physical interaction my hope and prayer is that we are mindful to do our best to check-in with one another through whatever means available.  Whether it is through a Zoom meeting, a Google Hangout, an email, a text, or even an old-fashioned telephone call, let us all be mindful to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Checking in more often with our family, friends, church members, and even acquaintances is crucial during this time.  There is definitely a need to social distance but let us not forget to continue to show our love and support for one another.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, remind us to that we are called to be a community of believers.  As such, let us be sensitive to each other’s needs and support each other as best we can.  Through this time let us lean on our faith in You and remain unified as body of Christ. In Jesus name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 59


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 1:27-39: Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is Paul’s command to the Philippian Church? (v. 27)
  2. What is the sign of destruction Paul referring to in v. 28?
  3. In what ways are we to suffer for His sake? (vv. 29-30)

Notes

  1. Paul is calling them to conduct themselves worthy of the gospel.  He understands that a credible witness for the gospel must be set apart from the rest of the world.  Additionally, there must be unity among them as they stand as one in spirit and for the work to be done.
  2. The sign of destruction refers to God’s final judgement against those that stand against Him.  The salvation promised is the deliverance from God for all those that believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
  3. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection 

In what ways are you connecting with your community?  Were you able to engage with others outside of your home in a meaningful way?  Is there anyone that comes to mind that you should reach out to? Take some time to ask God to reveal a person that needs a personal touch.  If God reveals a person to you, whomever it may be, take a moment to reach out tomorrow.

March 25, Wednesday

The AMI QT Devotional for today is provided by Joe Suh who serves as a pastor intern at the Church of Southland (Anaheim, California).   

 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Hear and Obey!”

Jonah 1:1-3a (NASB)

The word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai saying, 2 “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it, for their wickedness has come up before Me.” 3 But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.  

We are truly living in unprecedented, turbulent times.  With Covid-19 effectively changing the way we live our lives, it seems that our true character is being put to the test.  For those who are generally structured and like a daily routine, the government mandate for “Safer at Home” has brought about many challenges.  For those with school aged children, we now truly understand the difficulty in teaching our kids. I have found new respect for fulltime stay-at-home parents and for our schoolteachers!

However, amid the stress and anxiety, what is God calling us to do?  More importantly, when we hear God, can we also obey? I know many of us ask God to speak to us for direction for our lives.  However, it is important to note that just as much as we desire to hear God’s voice, there is another step that comes along with it.  The more important thing is to obey what we hear.  

As we look at today’s passage, we see very clearly that God was speaking to Jonah.  Not only did God speak, He gave Jonah very specific instructions. However, Jonah did not do what God asked; in fact, Jonah did the complete opposite.  Nineveh was east of him and he chose to go west, to Tarshish.  

By why did Jonah disobey?  As you read through Jonah, you come to see Jonah’s reasoning and motives. In short, Jonah did not agree with God’s request.  He did not see any good reasons to go to Nineveh and share the word of God with the Ninevites. To him, they were not worthy of God’s grace and mercy.  Really, Jonah had doubts about God’s judgment and discernment.

My guess is all of us have had experiences like this.  In the most difficult of life situations we question why God is putting us through it.  Even now, with a global pandemic there are those who are questioning God as to why. The reason is, because when we do not see the entire picture, we question God and start to doubt His goodness.  We only see what is in front of us and do not understand the bigger picture to come. This leads to a question of whether God knows what is best or do we know is best? The answer is obvious, but still our hearts lead us astray.  

Friends, as the world around us changes and our way of life is adjusted to something none of us ever expected, let us not let fear rule over us.  We have to remember that our God is good and His plans are what are best for us. God is calling for all us to lean on our faith in Him. Just because we do not fully understand, we cannot doubt who He is…our loving Father who knows what is best for us.  

Prayer: Heavenly Father in the face of uncertain times we look to You to lead and guide us.  May Your word be a lamp unto our feet. I pray that as Your people we will not ever doubt who You are and we can rest in You at all times.  I pray that You would be comfort and peace to those whose hearts are filled with fear and unrest. May Your mighty hand cover all of us during this time.  In Jesus Name, Amen!

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 58


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 1:21-26:  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is Paul’s dilemma?  What is he trying to convey to the Philippian Church? (vv. 21-23)
  2. How does Paul resolve the tension between the two choices? (v. 24)
  3. What is Paul’s choice and why? (vv. 25-26)

Notes

  1. Paul is trying to resolve the tension between his necessity and his desire.  Paul explains to the Philippians that his life is all about Jesus and the spreading of the gospel (necessity).  However, in death he would receive the ultimate reward. He was assured of his eternity in Heaven so he knew that his death would be gain (desire).
  2. Paul found great joy in spreading the gospel.  Since his conversion it was his life’s work to live out the calling he received.  He heard from Jesus and he obeyed. There was no question in him to ever doubt what he was called to do.  So, even though his desire was to walk into eternity, he knew what he had to do.
  3. Paul chose to remain and continue to preach the Good News to all who could hear.  There is joy in it and there was still work to be done.

Evening Reflection

Spend some time this evening reflecting on what God is calling you to do during this time.  Are you able to hear His voice? Are you able to live it out? Take some time to pray to ask God for clarity and discernment.

March 24, Tuesday

Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on March 25, 2014.  It has been updated to reflect the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  

 

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning

“Fear and Anxiety”

1 John 4:17-21 (ESV)  

By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 19 We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 

If we think about it, all of us are born in fear, ultimately die in fear, and in between, we experience varying levels of fear throughout life.  Perhaps, as of a few weeks ago, we may have felt like we had no struggle with fear; how that has all changed so quickly amid fears of global spread of COVID-19! I think we would all confess that we all are experiencing varying degrees of anxiety as a result.

In the fifties, psychologists in America recognized a shift in the emotional health of the general population and began labeling the modern era as” the age of anxiety.”  During that time, Paul Tillich, who was a theologian at Yale, wrote a very important book entitled The Courage to Be, in which he identified the difference between fear and anxiety.  He wrote: “Anxiety and fear have the same ontological root but they are not the same in actuality.  Fear, as opposed to anxiety has a definite object, which can be faced, analyzed, attacked, endured. But this is not so with anxiety, because anxiety has no object, or rather, in a paradoxical phrase, its object is the negation of every object.”  

What is Tillich talking about?  It is far easier to deal with our fears arising from identifiable objects, such as an intruder or a sickness, as opposed to something that is as abstract as death and judgment.    How does someone fight against the meaninglessness of life, the prospect of eternity, and being judged by a holy God? Without the assurance of Christ’s love, these questions still remain a constant source of fear and anxiety in our lives.  In fact, if you still wrestle with these matters, it probably is an indication that God’s love has not been perfected in you.  

This matter has become all the more urgent as many people in the world are dealing with the fear of coronavirus on the one hand, and anxiety over its impact on their everyday life on the other.  The only solution for a person filled with anxiety is an experience of Christ’s perfect love. With that, we can begin to conquer all our fears and live the life of love that God created for us. Let’s turn to God: seek Him; cry out to Him.   

Prayer: Father, help us to overcome our fears and anxieties, not by our own courage but by the courage that comes from Your love.   May we experience Your love so that it is a constant reality in our lives and not just an abstract theological concept. Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 57


Lunch Break Study  

Read Matthew 10:26-33: “So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Why are we often afraid to proclaim the Gospel?  
  2. Who should we fear?
  3. What is our assurance against fear?  

Notes

  1. At the bottom line, most of us are hesitant to share the Gospel because of the fear of persecution and rejection.     
  2. Ultimately, we should fear God more than the opposition of man.  A “healthy fear” of God allows us to overcome all our other fears.          
  3. The assurance against fear is the loving care that God has for every believer, and that He is intimately aware of each of us.   From this perspective, the approval of God is worth more than a thousand rejections by man.   

Evening Reflection

Are there people in your life that need to hear the Gospel?   Write down the names and specific prayer requests for each person.  Take some time to pray that God would provide opportunities and boldness to share your faith with these individuals.