March 8, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Exodus 10:1, 3

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the hearts of his officials so that I may perform these signs of mine among them!’… 3 So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh…”

I recently applied to business school programs. It took a lot of preparation – studying for exams, getting recommendations, and writing essays. I was short-sighted to think that the hardest part was applying. The hardest part has been waiting to hear back from these schools. At the time of writing, I have only received rejections so far. While I felt led by Him entering this process, I’ve noticed that my hopefulness has still taken a hit with these decisions. It becomes increasingly hard to start each day wondering whether I will receive news, and sometimes I even go as far as to avoid checking my email. Though this process is far from over, I find that sustaining my hope has been difficult.

If you are tracking with the narrative, you know that we are now between the seventh and eighth plagues. This means that Moses has gone before Pharaoh, stated his case, and received rejection seven times! Yet when God calls him to go again, Moses does so without any recorded hesitation or frustration. Each time, Moses continues to present Himself to Pharaoh – this time could be the last time! The resilience of Moses’ faith and hope to continue seeking out Pharaoh are just as astonishing as the plagues themselves.

In thinking of how to acquire such emotional and spiritual stamina, I wonder if Moses acquired such resilience and perseverance because he understood that hopefulness was not about the reward of what he wished to gain but about the God He believed in. Maintaining hope was not about his ability to drum up positive thoughts. It was possible only because he wanted to demonstrate, for as long as it took, that God is faithful to His people and always delivers them.

Walking in step with God does not always prove to be an efficient or easy path. For Moses, each step of obedience and each ensuing plague further revealed one more aspect of God’s power and glory. So, we can take heart that no matter what the path looks like, it will be paved with His glory. Until He shows us the ending, let’s ask for Him to make our hope resilient in the meantime so we may witness to the world that we have a God who is worthy of our trust.

Prayer: Father, I desire to honor You in everything that I do. Help me to honor You even when I wait for Your answers, and in times when I doubt Your unfailing goodness and kindness in my life. Be near, Lord, to show me Your goodness and remind me of your faithfulness. May Your character be the foundation for my trust and confidence. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 26


Lunch Break Study

Read Hebrews 10:19-25: Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the hope that we profess to have as believers?
  2. What provides the confidence for us to go before God and hold onto His promises?
  3. As people who take hold of the hope in Christ, what should our natural response be?

Notes

  1. Our hope is that we have relationship and communion with a loving and holy God. As believers, we profess that this is our greatest treasure and reward, that it brings us the greatest satisfaction, and that this is promised for every single moment of our lives from now to eternity.
  2. The crux of our confidence in every situation is that Christ has already opened a way for us to come near to God by His death and resurrection. He has already accomplished the impossible: for sinners to draw near to a holy God. Therefore, we have assurance that we can absolutely draw close. Additionally, God’s faithfulness gives us the assurance that this promise and hope will never be withheld from us.
  3. Holding onto our hope (vertical relationship) flows naturally into our horizontal relationships. When we cling to our hope and enjoy this promised fellowship with God, our response will be to urge others to continue in their love and good deeds and to draw close to each other as well.

Evening Reflection

Oftentimes, thinking of enduring long stretches of time makes us weary before we have even started. Let’s thank God that He provided grace for us to stay faithful today, and let’s ask Him to provide grace for tomorrow. Our God is the God of all hope; He will bring us along as He shows us what is worth hoping for.

March 7, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Diligence in Seeking God”

Exodus 9:27-28, 34

“Then Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron. ‘This time I have sinned,’ he said to them. ‘The Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. 28 Pray to the Lord, for we have had enough thunder and hail. I will let you go; you don’t have to stay any longer…’ 34 When Pharaoh saw that the rain and hail and thunder had stopped, he sinned again: He and his officials hardened their hearts.”

I have found that there is no time like the last month before a big exam. My lifestyle becomes machine-like as my diligence kicks into high gear: I sleep regular hours, I exercise regularly, I even meal prep – all so I can devote additional time before and after work to study. Something is thrilling about living in my best state during a high-stakes season. However, my off-season lifestyle is shameful. Most of these habits drop to the wayside and prove that, at my core, I am loose and undisciplined. One might say it’s normal to not have otherworldly discipline, but it is obvious to me that the urgency of my situation changes my dedication and focus.

We have just experienced a glimmer of hope when Pharaoh surveys the consequences of not letting the Israelites go – all his land is destroyed. He seems about ready to relent and is willing to let the Israelites go and have Moses intercede on his behalf. When the stakes are high, he too submits to the Lord. But once God relieves the Egyptians, instead of repentance and worship, Pharaoh loses interest in seeking God.

Does your level of comfort change whether you seek God or believe you really need Him? In times of relative ease, are you like me, forgetting that we are called to faithfulness? Today, let’s resolve to make habits in our lives so that our spiritual hunger does not wax and wane with circumstance. Big, sweeping plans seem exciting, but small habits that will pay off in the long run. Let’s make time today to dedicate ourselves to seeking God: one more chapter of the Word than usual, or 5-10 more minutes of prayer than usual. Over time, as we build these habits, may we become people who are steadfast and faithful through all circumstances.

Prayer: Father, I want to know You more, but I confess that I am often slow and lazy to seek You. Help me to encounter You and build my faithfulness so that I can gain a faithful, steady heart that is constant in every circumstance and situation. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 25


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Timothy 4:6-16: “If you point these things out to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good minister of Christ Jesus, nourished on the truths of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. 7 Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives’ tales; rather, train yourself to be godly. 8 For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9 This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. 10 That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. 11 Command and teach these things. 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Note that Paul says both physical and spiritual trainings hold value. How does Paul contrast physical and spiritual training?
  2. What are the ways in which we can train ourselves to be godly?
  3. What are ways in which you are training yourself to be godly? What are additional ways in which you can do so?

Notes

  1. It is important to note that they both are valuable, and this should be an affirmation to those who pursue both physical and spiritual training. However, Paul reminds us that spiritual training brings about promise for both this life and the one to come, whereas physical training is valuable for only this life. It is the eternal return on investment in spiritual training that gives it greater worth and value.
  2. First, Paul writes that people must forego “godless myths and old wives’ tales” – aka compelling words that are not filled with the hope and certainty of God’s promises. Myths and tales give us good ideas, but they do not nourish our souls the way that God’s teaching does. In this vein, Paul further encourages Timothy to be devoted to the reading and preaching of the Word. He is encouraged to further pursue the spiritual gifts and also to strive to be an example in all facets of his life: speech, action, love, faith, and purity. Lastly, Timothy is charged to live diligently and let others look into how his life is run – this type of spiritual accountability with his public life is meant to spur him on in godliness.
  3. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

How was your time with God today? What are steps you can take to maintain diligence in seeking God? Pray that God will give you these opportunities again tomorrow.

March 6, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Having the Ear of Heaven”

Exodus 9:29

Moses replied, “When I have gone out of the city, I will spread out my hands in prayer to the Lord. The thunder will stop and there will be no more hail, so you may know that the earth is the Lord’s.

Matthew 6:7-8

“And when you pray, do not babble on like pagans, for they think that by their many words they will be heard. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.”

During a recent trip overseas, my mom kept asking if I wanted to go into an unfamiliar store to buy some steamed buns for a snack. She suggested it so frequently that I became curious and asked why she was fixated on these buns. Did she want some herself? It was her turn to be confused: “I thought you said you wanted to try them out!” For the life of me, I could not remember saying so. But it’s likely that I did off-handedly, and my mom was so attentive that she logged it into her memory. I don’t like to admit this, but my parents are always listening, and they always remember things I forget I have said.

While it is clear by this point that Moses and God have a close relationship, Moses’ explanation of ending this plague still seems too simple. He will ask, and the destructive hailstorm will end. Moses knows God is listening, and he knows that once he asks, God will immediately answer.

Do you know that you also have the ear of Heaven? How our prayers and conversations with Him would change if we truly believed that His ear is always turned towards us and that He is listening! Our prayers and words do not get lost on the way to Heaven along with everyone else’s. He catches every word clearly and is keenly aware of what’s on your heart.

Today, let’s respond in awareness that God knows all the words we speak. We can pray with simple faith that our God listens to us; we can pray without overcomplicating or making long-winded explanations and propositions. He is our loving Father, and He is listening. May we rest in this security that our Father’s attention is on us.

Prayer: Father, thank You that You always listen to me. I sometimes come with hesitancy and reluctance, but I want to know that Your ear is always open towards me. Help me to trust and delight in knowing that I have a Father who loves listening. Help me to freely pour out my heart before You today! Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 24


Lunch Break Study

Read James 5:13-18: “This Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. 17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

Questions to Consider

  1. What are the different forms that prayer can take, and what are the effects?
  2. Why would James say that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective?
  3. Why does James emphasize that Elijah was human, as we are?

Notes

  1. Prayer appears in all contexts: in fearful situations to bring comfort and peace; in joyous occasions to sing to the Lord; in physical sickness to declare God’s power over the physical; and in spiritual sickness to witness God’s redemption and renewal. There is a prayer for every season and every circumstance.
  2. The person who is “righteous” – having confessed sins and shortcomings to God and taken on His new life – has been filled by the Spirit. The one who is filled with God’s Spirit prays in alignment with what God desires (and therefore is effective). However, the one filled with God’s Spirit also has greater expectation for what God is able to do; thus the prayers may be more audacious as they require a greater demonstration of who God is, and God will certainly answer requests that glorify His name.
  3. We often risk elevating Biblical figures as above-average men and women of faith, but they were like us and had similar sins and flaws. Knowing that Elijah was a man like us should give us confidence and joy that our prayers, too, can come with a demonstration of God’s Spirit!

Evening Reflection

Did you find that your prayers changed when you reminded yourself of God’s listening ear today? I encourage you to think about how to habitually incorporate this and make it a regular aspect in how you meet with God.

March 5, Tuesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“A Believing Remnant”

Exodus 9:20

“Those officials of Pharaoh who feared the word of the Lord hurried to bring their slaves and their livestock inside.”

I have some friends at work who are Chinese natives; becoming friends with them is not just a boon to my social life in the office but helps me practice my Mandarin. Two years ago, before Good Friday (a holiday that our company keeps), one of them asked me what I would do on my day off. I replied that I would celebrate with my church. As she asked me what we would celebrate, I quickly realized that my language skills were inadequate to explain why I could celebrate that my God died on Good Friday. After an extremely flustering conversation, I walked away realizing that, despite my upbringing, I never learned the vocabulary of the Gospel in Chinese because I never thought I would talk to someone who wanted to hear it.

The reception from the Egyptians has been hostile, unbelieving, and cold. But though Pharaoh opposed Moses, some of his officials were a believing remnant that God had left for Himself among the Egyptians. There were people there who wanted to fear God. Had Moses not been faithful to appear and demonstrate the works of the Lord, these officials would have been unable to listen to God’s words and respond accordingly.

Today, there are people around us in unexpected places who would like to hear more about the Jesus we profess to love. Our witness consists not only in sharing truths but in demonstrating the love and power of the Spirit. Are we aware that we have been placed around people who desire to know and fear God? Let’s ask Him to open our eyes and our hearts so that we might see and receive them today. May He give us the wisdom and grace to speak His truths to whoever has ears to listen. If we remember that there are people seeking His truth, even in unfriendly and surprising places, then every inch of the earth we cover can be a place of worship to Him today.

Prayer: Father, thank You that You may be found when we seek You. Give me a heart that is aware that others are longing to meet You; make me an instrument who responds to that need. Bring people around me so that I might share the wonder of Your love with them and remember for myself the joy of knowing You. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 23


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Thessalonians 4:1-12: “As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus. 3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What are the marks of a believer’s life as Paul writes about here?
  2. In the passage, who teaches the believers how to live?
  3. Paul writes two times in this passage that the Thessalonians are living correctly, but he urges them to do so “more and more.” Why? Is this reflected in our own lives?

Notes

  1. Paul writes that believers are distinguished by numerous qualities: holiness, love, and peace. Holiness comes from living in obedience to God – particularly in this case Paul writes about avoiding sexual sins. Love is not just inwards (within the community) but is spread outwards: “throughout Macedonia.” He also challenges them to live quiet lives; the Thessalonians seem to have the need to grow in the area of living winsome lives towards unbelievers.
  2. The believers learn how to live from Paul and his friends – in fact, he reminds them that these instructions ultimately come from God. The truths had been transmitted by the authority of Christ, and the call to be holy comes from God’s Holy Spirit. The ability for the Thessalonians to love generously comes from God – God Himself and the way that He loves is where the Thessalonians take their cues from. It is interesting to us that, though people may be a model by which we are introduced to the things of God, it is still God who teaches and guides us in these aspects of our living.
  3. Paul seems to suggest that they should raise the bar. Perhaps there are deeper, more sustained, and greater ways to live in holiness and in love than what they have known. Or, perhaps Paul writes this so that no one can stay satisfied by the level that has been achieved but will always move towards the highest example set by Christ. He challenges them not to settle for what has been accomplished but always to yearn for more.

Evening Reflection

Did you think about an opportunity to reflect God, His truth, and His character today? Or did someone come to mind that you can begin showing His love and truth to? Let’s pray for God to make more opportunities arise in our lives and for us to be ready to demonstrate His love and truth.

March 4, Monday

The AMI Quiet Time Devotionals from March 4-10 are provided by Christine Li.  Christine, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, works in New York City and serves at Remnant Church in Manhattan.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Speaking Truths to One Another”

Exodus 9:13

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Get up early in the morning, confront Pharaoh and say to him, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: Let my people go, so that they may worship me’”

Proverbs 27:5-6

Better is open rebuke than hidden love.6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”

One of my most positive relationships at work has come with a woman who managed me for some time. Several months after we started working together, she called me in the middle of the day to say, “I want you to know that I care a lot about you, and I need you to remember that as I address something…” and identified a problem at work that reflected poorly on me. As she laid it out, the words stung, but because I knew she was right, and I knew the observations came from a place of concern, it became an extremely rewarding conversation. Because of her constructive and caring feedback, I grew a lot, and I still appreciate that she is someone I trust to tell me the truth and to say it for my good.

While human nature may be critical and judgmental, few of us are comfortable having hard conversations or confrontations. Yet, sometimes God challenges us to step into the lives of our brothers/sisters to kindly direct them into the truth. Without truth, we can easily deceive ourselves, and we suffer the consequences of our own blind spots. With the help of brothers and sisters who are willing and glad to help us in our weaknesses, we can find true healing, restoration, and growth.

Done well, loving confrontation will bring life and healing to us and to others. Today, let’s resolve to devote ourselves to the growth and godliness of those around us. May we not let temporary awkwardness or insecurity separate us from the lasting fruits that would result from these conversations. Let us ask God to give us the love and courage to be forthright friends and to be completely devoted to others’ growth and godliness. And let us ask Him also for humility to receive and internalize instruction when it is given to us.

Prayer: Father, I want to grow in Your grace, but You also know that I am a coward at times. Would You give my brothers and sisters the courage, love, and devotion to bring Your truth into my life? For their sakes, too, make me a faithful friend who will push them towards You. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 22


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 4:25-32: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26 “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold. 28 Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. 29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Questions to Consider

  1. What are the ways in which we should speak to one another?
  2. The context for this passage is that Paul is giving instructions on what holy living looks like. How is our speech tied to holy living?
  3. Paul suggests here that the purpose of our words is not self-expression but rather building each other up. What would it look like for you and me to make that our primary motivation each time we speak?

Notes

  1. Paul instructs that our speech should be truthful to each other. However, our speech should also be free of bitterness, anger, and malicious intents. Conversations with each other must be kind, compassionate, and full of forgiveness. The goal of our words should be to bless one another and build each other up.
  2. Speaking is also an action. Just as we must not steal, we also must not sin by the words that we say. There is a great deal of emphasis in this passage to be careful of the attitudes and words that spring from us; it seems that our words should be as carefully trained as our other actions are.
  3. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

Take some time to reflect on your conversations from today. Were they fuller of truth and the desire to bring life to others? Let’s ask Him to give us grace again for tomorrow and to be people who treasure His truth and goodness above everything else.

March 3, Sunday

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Voice of Self-Condemnation”

1 John 3:19-24 (ESV)

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 22 and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

The story of the woman caught in adultery out of John 8, illustrates powerfully how Jesus frees us from condemnation.  We are told that the religious leaders brought this woman into the temple courts, in the middle of a crowd having Bible study with Jesus, and demanded a verdict regarding her sin.

These religious leaders wanted to trap Jesus either by making him out to be an enemy of the Roman Empire or a false teacher.  In the first case, no one could pass a sentence of death without knowledge of the Roman authorities. In the second case, if he simply let the woman go, he could be cast as a teacher without moral convictions and little regard for the Mosaic Law.  

Imagine the humiliation, the isolation, and the fear of this woman as the weight of her sin was exposed to the church.  As the passage unfolds, Jesus bent down to write on the ground. What did he write? The classic Christian commentaries suggest that Jesus wrote on the ground to remove attention from the condemned woman and to place the crowd’s focus onto himself.   This was a way for Jesus to protect this woman’s dignity and personhood.

Then Jesus speaks the famous words that lead to this woman’s freedom: “If any of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  One by one, each of these men filled with anger, drop their stones, and leave until only Jesus and the woman are left alone. In that divine moment, Jesus turns to the woman and asks, “Has no one condemned you?”  In response to the woman’s answer of “No one, sir,” Jesus sets her free by stating, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” To be sure, Jesus did not minimize the serious nature of her sin, even as he forgave her.  In a manner that is consistent with both grace and truth, he commanded her to leave her life of sin.

In going through this passage, it dawned on me that not many of us will fall into public condemnation, but we leave ourselves open to a much greater threat: the voice of self-condemnation.   Like this woman, we have to get to a place in our relationship with Jesus, where we are free enough to say, “There is no one left to condemn me, not even myself.” The promise of forgiveness that is found in the gospel is greater than what our fickle hearts often feel.  In fact, it is impossible to be freed from our patterns of sin unless we truly receive the love of Christ, and open ourselves to share that love with others. Then and only then, are we able we come to God with the confidence that is promised us through the sacrifice of Christ.

Prayer: Jesus, I pray that I would encounter you in such a powerful way that reminds me that you are greater than my heart.  Help me to overcome the temptation of self-condemnation and to fight against the accusations of the enemy. May I come to realize that whomever you set free, will be free indeed!  

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 21

March 2, Saturday

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“A New Name”

John 1:35-42 (ESV)

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).

We often overlook the significant actions that Jesus performs in the gospels.  In this passage, Jesus changes the name of a man whom He has just met. This is clearly not an ordinary everyday event, which, to the modern reader, sounds completely random.  However, the Jewish people would have understood the two-fold significance of someone changing their name. First, only God has the right to give you a new name. This makes a lot of sense.  Other than your parents, no one else should have the right to change your name. Second, your new name speaks a new identity and destiny over your life. Names in the ancient Middle East meant much more than the arbitrary labels that we give our children.  Changing your name meant changing who you are and the purpose of your life. When Jesus met Simon, I’m sure he knew how unstable this young man was—how impetuous, and how unreliable. But Jesus, seeing who he could be, that is, his potential in God’s hand, called him Peter—the rock on which He would build the church.  

Like Peter, God has a better name for each of us but we have to be willing to receive it and live it out.  There is an interesting British reality show called the Monastery that takes completely irreligious people and challenges them to spend several weeks living as monks in a monastery.  In one of the shows, there was a young man who had been working in the porn industry and at the end of his time in the monastery, he realized that he didn’t want to go back to his old life.  He was afraid that he would lose everything that he had gained during his time separated from the world and separated from sin. When the monk who has been his spiritual director saw this young man struggle with this decision, he told him slowly and deliberately, “You have a name given to you at birth but you also have a name that you don’t know.”  The monk then described how in the book of Revelation, Jesus tells us that our true names are written down in heaven on white stones, and this name on the stone is our real name, which points to our true identity: “To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (Rev. 2:17).

In the final moments as this young man began to prepare to leave the monastery, the monk took one smooth white stone out of his pocket and gave it to this once hardened, insensitive English hooligan and told him, “This is a symbol of your quest to find out who you really are before God.”  Needless to say, the young man left his job, began to attend church, and started to meet regularly with the spiritual director. It’s a deeply moving story that reminds us that whether you are Christian or not, we all share this quest to find our true identity, to receive the name that God has reserved for us.   To receive this name, you have to overcome and conquer the pull of the world that is constantly trying to dictate to you what your identity should be instead of what it is in Christ. Perhaps, you need to start that journey today.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to see that my true name and my true identity is only revealed when I am found in you.  May my life be hidden in you so that I no longer live but you live in me. Give me the eyes to see that titles like “successful,” “wealthy,” “powerful,” and “intelligent” will all fade away.  Help me to reject the many different but temporary names that the world tries to label me with. Only then can I receive this glorious name that you have written down on a white stone, a name that will last into eternity.  

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 19-20

(Oops—The Thursday Bible reading should have been Matthew 17 instead of 16. We are now back to the correct reading plan.)