October 15, Tuesday

Devotional Thought for Today

“A Sharp and Effective Tool”

Hebrews 4:12-13 

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

As part of a group of friends, we recently gifted someone a boning knife. When I first heard of this gift, I wondered why anyone would specifically want one. But as I researched and read reviews online, I found legions of people who sang its praises: chefs love its pliability and how it’s malleable in their hands to make intricate cuts. It’s specifically useful to separate meat that clings to the bones so you can get some very tasty (but otherwise hard-to-get) pieces. It’s not just that this knife needs to be sharp, but it can get into some very difficult places.

The author of Hebrews mentions that the word is living, active, sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing! Just like a sword (and I suppose, a boning knife), it gets into all the crevices of our soul and pokes around quite effectively. 

If the Bible is so effective, why is it that reading it can be such a hard discipline for many Christians to acquire? I wonder (for myself and for you) if many Christians are loath to read the Word and effectively engage with it because we do not want to be faced with our own inner realities. Instead, it is easier to keep the Word, which would have so much to say about our hearts, at arm’s length. 

But, at the end of the day, don’t you and I want to grow? Let’s receive God’s instruction and insight and dedicate ourselves to reading His word. He may point out to us, very quickly, the errors in our thoughts and actions. But He is also ready to gently and kindly lead us with His guidance. Today, I encourage you to take extra time to read the Bible and let Him examine your heart with it. Let’s not keep His Word at arm’s length. Let’s ask Him to speak to us directly and graciously so that we may live well. 

Prayer: Father, I know that You have the words of life, and I need them. Help me to overcome fear, shame, and guilt when coming into Your presence. I want Your correction and your guidance to live in a way that pleases You. Let Your word reshape and mold me today!

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 15


Lunch Break Study

Read 2 Timothy 3:14-17: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Questions to Consider

  1. What are attributes of Scripture listed here?
  2. Why is it important that Timothy not just know the Scriptures but also know “those from whom [he] learned it”?
  3. What is the ultimate benefit of knowing Scripture?

Notes

  1. Scripture comes directly from God and is filled with His Spirit. It instructs, admonishes, and instructs hearers to grow in a godly manner. A more general statement would be that Scripture is an effective tool for apprenticeship in Christian life.
  2. Reading and understanding texts is one thing, but Paul mentions that spiritual formation is also crystallized when godly examples of spiritual life are available to the learner. Close examples of godliness and love for the Scripture directly teaching Timothy were critical to him accepting its truth and becoming a student of it.
  3. Paul writes that a servant of God can be thoroughly equipped (not just slightly, or adequately, but thoroughly) for every good work by being immersed in Scripture. The necessity and need for Scripture take prominence here and remind us that all we need for godliness is found in God’s word.

Evening Reflection

How was your time in God’s word today? Did it bring a sense of refreshment and encouragement? Let’s ask God to keep feeding and nourishing us through His Word (not just rebuke or conviction) so that we really see it as our daily bread.

October 14, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals from October 14-20 are provided by Christine Li, who attends and serves at Remnant Church in Manhattan, New York.

 

Devotional Thought for Today

“Up Close and Personal”

Hebrews 1:1-4 

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

This past year, I had the chance to see a musician that I admire very much. Prior to the concert, I did my homework: I listened to his songs (even memorizing some) and read all his recent interviews. I even began googling other people’s experiences of the concert tour to anticipate the setlist. Going in, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. However, the live experience was even better than expected! Seeing him in the flesh was incredible; it made every attribute of his come alive: the tone of voice, facial expressions, spontaneous decisions! He became more than the impression and construct I’d made in my head. 

The writer of Hebrews tells us that God has revealed Himself in a similar manner. In the past, He spoke only to certain people, He left a written account to tell us what He values, and He even revealed His power with some miracles. Devoted scholars would have had plenty of resources to form an impression and understanding of God. But all those things paled in comparison to the actual experience of having Jesus in the flesh. Now, through the Son, God has spoken to us in a new, concrete way. His character comes alive through the demonstrations of His love, mercy, compassion, holiness, and justice. 

Do you or I adequately appreciate how wonderful it is that God came in the flesh for us? It’s possible that we have taken accounts of Him (the Gospels) or accounts of His effect on men (Acts and the rest of the New Testament) too lightly. You and I, being born on this side of Christ’s life, have the wonderful privilege to know Him directly and be able to reference what He said, how He spoke, what He did.

Let us spend time today meditating on how the person of Christ fills up our understanding of God. Through Him, we understand perfect love. Through Him, we understand holiness. Through Him, we understand compassion and grace. Let’s thank God that He did not leave Himself shrouded in mystery but instead came to this world and fully exposed us to His goodness.

Prayer: God, thank You for coming! Thank You for not staying a distant and mysterious being but coming in the flesh so that we would know You with certainty and with intimacy. Help me not to take Your revelation for granted but teach me to understand You better. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Revelation 14


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 John 1:1-4:  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. 2 The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. 3 We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. 4 We write this to make our joy complete.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What does John say here about our senses being engaged in knowing God? Why would this be important?
  2. Why does John have to proclaim this reality of the Word of life? What is his goal?
  3. In these elements of encountering, testifying, and fellowshipping, which one are you most engaged in? Which one would you like more of?

Notes

  1. John notes multiple senses engaged in knowing God: sound, sight, touch. Instead of knowing God abstractly (an eternal God “from the beginning”) and distantly, the disciples experienced Him fully: He was known, seen, regarded, beheld, and physically touched. Because Jesus came in the flesh, God was fully revealed to men. 
  2. Testimony is the natural outflow from someone who has encountered God intensely. Deepening one’s fellowship with God is the end goal; even fellowship with one another is yet another means of enjoying the presence of God and heightening the joy of having encountered God. For joy do the disciples continue to testify of God’s reality and closeness.
  3. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

Take some time to think about today’s topic. Does Jesus seem real to you, or does God feel distant and abstract? Let’s ask God to engage our senses in knowing Him and ask that He would grow our understanding of Him more tangibly.

October 13, Sunday

Today’s blog, written by Pastor Sam Lee of Catalyst Agape Church in New Jersey, was first posted on December 1, 2013.

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Finishing Well”

1 Corinthians 9:24-27

 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize

Can you believe it’s already October? As the year is winding down, it has been a long spiritual journey; finish strong and make the last quarter of 2019 count.  As the finish line looms, run as though you are going to win instead of just crawling to the finish line. The Bible assures us that our time with the Lord doesn’t drain us; rather, it fills us.  How? Since He is the vine and we are the branches (Jn. 15:5), His life flows through us, especially when we have intimate and vital connection with Him through our daily quiet time, which, in this way, becomes pivotal to having a victorious life in Christ.

I remember attempting to hike up a mountain in North Jersey Appalachian trail.  Being out of shape physically, when my body started to give out, I had to turn back in defeat; I failed to make it to the top. Then, after working out regularly for an extended period, I retried to climb the same mountain: I easily conquered it. I felt so good that after dismounting, I successfully climbed the mountain next to it. 

Many of you have been spiritually exercising the whole year through AMI Quiet time; hopefully, it wasn’t a matter of checking off an item from your daily to-do list.  If you have been approaching it with the right attitude, then, I believe you are now ready to conquer another spiritual mountain even higher. During your time with the Lord throughout the year, God has bestowed in you spiritual authority, revelations and truths, compassion, deeper faith, and “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).  If you merely survived this year spiritually, then, may you thrive in the coming year in which you run to be victorious in every facet of your life, in Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me the strength, through the Holy Spirit, to overcome the many obstacles I face.  Help me to push forward, in word and prayer, in love, faith and hope. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 13

October 12, Saturday

Today’s blog, written by Pastor Sam Lee of Catalyst Agape Church in New Jersey, was first posted on December 7, 2013.

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Real Power of the Gospel”

Philippians 1:2-6

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus

I want to focus on the gospel today. 

Paul was in the loneliest situation one can imagine. He was all alone, in prison, facing death, chained, no material comfort, hungry, far from home, no money, no electricity, no heating, and on top of that he was called to singleness. In situations when all would be overcome by loneliness, anger, condemnation, and depression, Paul overcomes. Paul understood that all dysfunction and hopelessness is the effect of sin. Paul was able to be joyful in all situations because of the gospel. Paul believed there was no barrier to the gospel no matter how hopeless the situation. 

I want to encourage you that the gospel is not just four laws to memorize but it is real and active in us because of Christ “I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Sin has brought every problem known to us. But, amid many problems we face, I want to encourage you to focus on what Christ has done for us. In the most hopeless situation, there is hope in Christ Jesus.

Prayer: Thank you Lord for Your love, sacrifice, and death on the cross for us.  That alone is enough for me to be forever grateful to you. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 11-12

October 11, Friday

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Stir Up One Another”

Hebrews 10:24-25

 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

When I’ve read these verses before, this exhortation to “stir up one another to love and good works” would often stand out to me.  I always thought about it as a beautiful picture of a community or a group of faithful followers of Jesus coming together to motivate and encourage one another to love Jesus and love others.  I’d imagine this exhortation to be like an inspirational or motivational speech that we see in movies, like the halftime speech of a sports movie or a speech from a general to his troops before they go in battle: “Let’s go and win one for Jesus everyone!”

Yet if you look up this word for “stir up” in the original language (παροξυσμὸν), it means “a provocation which literally jabs (cuts) someone so they must respond.”  The implication here is that stirring up one another isn’t just a motivational or inspirational thing, but it involves provoking, jabbing, and cutting one another—meaning, it can bring discomfort or pain.  It doesn’t really sound very inspirational or motivational, does it? Why should there be any discomfort or pain?

When the author of Hebrews exhorts the church to consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, it implies something very important:  that on our own, as individuals, without the prompting or provoking of others, we won’t make decisions or choices that lead us to love and good works.  If we were perfectly capable of growing in Christ individually, we wouldn’t need others to stir us up. We need to be stirred up because otherwise, we wouldn’t love others or do good works.

In our communities then, we need to cultivate relationships and friendships for ourselves where others can stir us up to love Jesus and others, even if that means discomfort or pain, even if that means our friends rebuke or challenge us.  No one really looks forwards to being rebuked or challenged. None of us really want to be told that we’re headed down a wrong or unhealthy path. But I believe all of us should desire to be pointed to Jesus by our brothers and sisters in Christ; and one of the most crucial ways this happens is when we allow others to speak truth in love into our lives.  Today, let us consider how we can allow others to stir us up towards love and good works.

Prayer: Jesus, I think you for the community that you have provided for me. I pray that you will use my brothers and sisters to speak truth into my life.  Stir me up towards loving You, Jesus, and others through Your body. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 11 


Lunch Break Study

Read Galatians 2:11-14: But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Questions to Consider

  1. Why did Paul confront Cephas (Peter) in this passage?
  2. What do you think would have happened if Paul never confronted Peter?
  3. Why would it have been difficult for Paul to rebuke Peter?  
  4. Why is it difficult for us to rebuke and confront others too?  How can we grow in this?

Notes

  1. Peter was at one point eating and fellowshipping with Gentiles, but when the circumcision party came, Peter changed his behavior out of fear of them and stopped being present with Gentiles.  Paul calls him out on this, because Peter was giving into fear of man and helping to create division over bad theology.
  2. If Paul didn’t confront Peter, the church itself would have been divided, people would have been led astray by the bad theology of the circumcision party, and perhaps, many people would have been deeply discouraged or even led away from faith in Jesus.
  3. Paul could have easily felt awkward or uneasy rebuking Peter, because of Peter’s stature within the church.  He had been one of Jesus’ key disciples, and he was one of the primary leaders of the early church. I think no matter our age or position, most of us would find it difficult to confront people who are older than us or more accomplished than us.  There could have been fear on Paul’s part of speaking out of place or as the idiom says, going above his pay grade. 
  4. Reflect on this for yourself, but I think, generally speaking, we all fear confronting because we worry about what people will think about us or ruining a friendship in some way.  At the same time though, rebuking and confronting should be something that we do for our brothers and sisters in Christ. How do we grow in it then? We must remember that we speak truth in love.  Our motivation is love for our friends and love for Jesus. If we truly love our friends, we should be willing to rebuke them if it means that they will love Jesus.

Evening Reflection

A church community is necessary and crucial for growing in love for Jesus and others, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.  Take some time and thank God for the church community that you’re in. If you’re struggling to be thankful for your church, pray for your heart first.  Pray that you will love the church like Jesus does. And then, pray that God will grow His church in love and good works.

October 10, Thursday

The AMI QT devotionals for October 10-11 are provided by Pastor Shan Gian who serves at Symphony Church in Boston. 

 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“One Another”

Galatians 6:2

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

Have you ever thought as you were listening to a sermon at church, I wish my friend was here to listen to this, or I hope my small group member is paying attention?  My guess is that most, if not all of us, have thought something like that before.  While there are some good intentions behind this kind of thinking, I’ve found that it’s easier for us to think about how another person is receiving a message more than actually receiving that message for ourselves.  This verse in Galatians is a prime example of this.  

Paul exhorts the church to carry one another’s burdens, to help comfort and counsel one another in difficult circumstances or to challenge one another in our struggles against sin and temptation.  When we read this, our tendency may be to think about others: We think about that small group member who has been struggling and how we can help them; or we remember that friend of ours who has been having a hard time at work and how we can encourage him or her.  It is great for us to stop and consider how we can be a blessing to others and carry their burdens, but when we do this, there’s a really important person that we tend to forget—ourselves.  Paul is not just saying to carry other people’s burdens, but we should mutually carry one another’s burdens.  An intrinsic part of “one another” is ourselves.  We don’t only consider how to help others, but we ourselves must allow others to help us with our own burdens.  

Though it is important for us to strive to be a blessing to others, we shouldn’t forget that we ourselves need to be blessed by others.  Because we have a desire to serve others, we can easily put on a brave face, telling others that we’re okay, instead of being vulnerable and open and letting others bless us. And ultimately, this can lead us into a dangerous place.  On our own, we cannot handle all of the burdens of our circumstances, struggles, sins, much less the burdens of others as well. What we all need is the support of others, of a community that desires to bless one another and point one another to the love of Jesus.  

Today, take a moment and think about how you yourself need others to help carry your burdens.  If there’s an opportunity, share with a friend about your own needs and struggles and ask for prayer.  Let’s bear one another’s burdens today.

Prayer: Jesus, I thank you for the love that You have shown me through others. I pray today that I can share my burdens with others and experience Your love through my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Bless me today through Your church. AMEN 

Bible Reading for Today:  Revelation 10


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 John 1:7-10: 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 cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the foundation of our fellowship within the church?
  2. If you’ve been a Christian for a while, you probably know better than to say you are without sin.  However, it’s still pretty easy for us to deceive ourselves and think we’re not that bad or don’t need much help.  What are some areas in your life where you may be deceiving yourself? What are some sins that you’re not admitting to others or yourself?
  3. What happens if we confess our sins to others?

Notes

  1. It is walking in the light, i.e. walking with Jesus.  The foundation of all that we do within the church is Jesus.  
  2. Personal reflection question.
  3. When we confess our sins, we experience the forgiveness and “cleansing” of Jesus.  We don’t have to be in a community nor do we have confess our sins to someone else in order to be forgiven of our sins.  Forgiveness is offered to us unconditionally by the blood of Jesus. However, when we confess our sins to one another, we not only understand the forgiveness of Jesus, but we also experience a deeper and typically more powerful cleansing.  Confessing to one another gives us a greater freedom and confidence in the love of Jesus.

Evening Reflection

We are not meant to walk with Jesus on our own.  We are deeply in need of the fellowship of the saints to help us carry our burdens and point us to Jesus.  If you haven’t yet, reach out to a friend from your church tonight and simply ask for prayer. Offer to listen and pray for your friend as well.  Let us strive to be people who are dependent on one another to follow Jesus.

October 9, Wednesday

Today’s devotional is a reprint of Kate Moon’s blog originally posted on December 26, 2013.  Kate continues to serve the Lord in E. Asia. 

 

Devotional Thought for Today

“What It Really Means to be Wise” 

Proverbs 29:9 

“If a wise man goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace.”

Growing up, when I would get into fights with my younger sisters over something, our parents would often say to me, “You’re the older one – as the older one, you should give way to the younger girls.”  I thought it was so unfair. Why should I be the one to give in? And what did being older have anything to do with it?

As adults, we’ve come to understand what my parents meant, that being the more mature one means that one doesn’t always have to insist on things being fair.  The older one, emotionally, has more wherewithal to deal with not getting to have things his or her way. If there is only one ice cream left but two children, the older one, if mature enough, can let the younger one have it, because the older one has compassion on the younger, because the older one knows that he or she can better handle the disappointment of going without.

Our Scripture for today is a proverb about what happens when a wise person and a fool go to court.  In other places in the Bible, there are warnings against going to court too hastily (Proverbs 25:8) and encouragement to resolve matters before it gets to that point (Matthew 5:25).  Here, too, I think we can take this proverb as a warning to the wise against insisting on fairness to the end, especially if one’s adversary is someone less wise.  

As the wiser person, it’s not about looking down on someone and saying, “I’m wise, you’re foolish; because I’m the better person, I will give in to you.”  That would be proud and actually less than mature. Mature wisdom sees those who are not there yet with mercy and compassion, and knowing they themselves are better able to handle giving way, they yield, graciously.

We need to stand our ground on important issues.  But for the lesser, can we be the wise one today? “Choose your battles;” some of the wisest counsel I’ve ever received.

Prayer: Lord, I confess that I am not the wisest, but if I encounter conflict today, would you give me the grace to yield and not have to insist to the end on things being fair?   As you have been gracious to me, help me to be to others. In Jesus’ name.

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 10


Lunch Break Study

Read Proverbs 29:11, 22: “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.  22 An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.”

Questions to Consider

  1. We often talk about “venting” to our friends and how we “need” to do this.  But what does the Bible say (v. 11)? 
  2. What is the wise person’s response in frustrating situations? (v. 11)
  3. What is the result of letting ourselves be controlled by anger rather than keeping anger under control (v. 22)?  What happened the last time I either spoke or acted out of anger?

Notes

  1. Venting is what fools do.  We need to be able to share, but sometimes it can go too far.
  2. He/she is able to manage his/her emotions.
  3. Dissension and sin.  Usually when we act in anger, we do things we regret later.

Evening Reflection

How were my interactions with the people around me today?  With family members, shopkeepers, restaurant workers? Did I give way to others more or did they give way to me?