May 28, Monday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

JKimThe AMI QT Devotionals from May 28-June 2 are provided by Pastor Joshua Kim of Church of Southland. Joshua, a graduate of Emory University and Columbia Theological Seminary (M.Div.), serves as the pastor of Access (singles) Community at the Church of Southland. He is married to Christina. 

“The Religion of Just Fulfilling Obligations”

Jeremiah 7:1-7

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, 2 Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house and proclaim there this word and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah, who enter by these gates to worship the Lord!’” 3 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place. 4 Do not trust in deceptive words, saying, ‘This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.’ 5 For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly practice justice between a man and his neighbor, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, nor walk after other gods to your own ruin, 7 then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.

052818Growing up in Salt Lake City, UT, I had the unique experience of getting to know Mormons in close proximity. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met. But many of my friends who grew up in the Mormon church participated simply because that’s what they were supposed to do. I was talking to a high school friend of mine who was getting ready to go on his 2-year mission trip with the LDS church. I was curious because I knew his negative feelings toward the religion he grew up in, which showed in his lifestyle choices. But despite these feelings, he told me, “I don’t know if I really believe in this stuff, but this is what I’m supposed to do.”

We see this dynamic in todays’ passage. One of the central representations of the Hebrew faith was the temple. It was symbolic of God’s presence amongst the people. So when we consider Jeremiah’s prophetic act of standing at the gate of the Lord’s house, physically blocking people from entering the temple, this is a huge deal: he is literally blocking the people from God’s presence. This physical act embodied the judgment of God upon the people.

God wanted to address the attitude of the people who felt safe/justified/righteous/etc. simply because of their practice of coming to the temple and offering their worship and sacrifices. We know from verses 5-7, their lives beyond the temple did not reflect the kind of reverence they may have displayed within the temple courts. In other words, just like my high school friend, their faith was mere token ritual, limited to certain part of their life. It did not transform their hearts, which showed in their lifestyle. And God would not allow this to continue.

How about us today? If we were to be honest, we have or can remember moments where our thoughts were uncomfortably similar to my friend or even the people in this passage. We are reminded in this passage that our relationship with God is not merely satisfying certain procedures. It is not about fulfilling quotas or checklists. It is a vibrant, love relationship with the Most High God that cannot but transform the way we live.

Prayer: Father, thank You that You first pursued a deep relationship with us. You did not create us to practice empty religion; you created us to enjoy and experience Your love in ways that bring You glory. Forgive us for those moments where it simply becomes about the physical, religious acts, and change us in ways that only Your love can. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ezekiel 1


Lunch Break Study

Read James 2.14-26: What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. 18 But someone may well say, You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the passage saying in terms of the relationship between works and faith? How might this be different from how we often understand these two things?
  2. To be clear, what is the passage not saying when it comes to work and faith (specifically in regards to salvation)?
  3. Take a moment to reflect: in light of this passage, how should we pray for ourselves?

Notes

  1. Especially if you pay attention to how the passage is translated, James in verse 18 makes clear that faith is shown BY works. Oftentimes, it is tempting for us to separate the two, especially because of what we will address in question 2. True faith will always lead to righteous works because true faith is transformative. We cannot remain the same when we have a relationship with God in faith.
  2. What we must be careful is that this passage does not suggest that we earn our faith or salvation through works. This is not a prooftext of work-based salvation. It’s perhaps this reason that we tend to shy away from what James wants to get at: our faith must reveal itself in our works.
  3. Personal reflection. Perhaps some of the things you can pray is for courage to live out your life in such a way that reflect who you believe God to be and what He has done for you. Perhaps others, God is calling you to check your busyness in serving or your “works” that might be overshadowing a truth faith relationship with Him.

Evening Reflection

Taking the last question from today’s lunch study, pray those things over yourself as you end the day. Pray as one who believes our God truly wants an intimate relationship with us; that God can and will transform us. Don’t forget to take a moment to allow Him to respond. Listen for His voice.

March 19, Monday

Today’s AMI Devotional is provided by Pastor Shan Gian who serves at Symphony Church in Boston.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Dirty Job”

Genesis 46:31-34

Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. 32 And the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock, and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.’ 33 When Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ 34 you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ in order that you may dwell in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.”

There used to be a TV show on the Discovery Channel called Dirty Jobs. The title gives the basic premise of the show: the host would go around the country and join actual workers for a day, doing their “dirty jobs” that were uncomfortable, hazardous, disgusting and sometimes all of the above. Some of the examples of the dirty jobs that he did were sewer inspector, pig farming, mosquito control officer, and diaper cleaner. None of these jobs are at all appealing, but they are all necessary because someone has to do them.

If the Egyptians had TV and had their own version of Dirty Jobs, they definitely would have aired an episode involving shepherds. We’re told in verse 34 that “every shepherd is an abomination to the Egyptians.” We don’t know why exactly the Egyptians so disliked shepherding, but we can guess that it was mostly due to the fact that shepherding was a dirty job. It was physically taxing as shepherds were outside all day long and likely slept in tents at night, still tending their flocks. They were separated from most of general society, outside city walls. The work of a shepherd was constant because sheep are very needy and not the brightest of animals. Shepherds had to lead the sheep to food and water, they had to defend them from predators, help them if they had fallen into ditches, and keep them away from danger. And of course the job itself was dirty, because sheep, of course, aren’t exactly the fluffy and white animals that we see in children’s books; they are dirty and smelly and so were the shepherds. We don’t have to wonder too much about why the Egyptians despised shepherds.

When we consider how despised shepherds were, it’s amazing to think that one of the most prominent and important descriptions of who Jesus is to us is that He is our shepherd. We can understand that Jesus is our king or that Jesus is our judge. He is God, so He has authority and power, and He is to be revered and honored as such. And yet, Jesus is our shepherd. What the Scriptures tell us is that Jesus took on the dirtiest and toughest job, and it didn’t just last for one day. He leads us, His flock, from danger and to food and water. He helps us when we fall down. He attends to our needs. Jesus Himself got “dirty” when He took our sin on the cross, and He was despised by humanity and separated from God. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep.

So today, let us remember our shepherd who loves us and did the toughest and dirtiest job imaginable so that we could be with Him.

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for being the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for us. You have come into the messiness of my life to show me Your love for me. Thank you Jesus for your amazing love and care for me. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Judges 13


Lunch Break Study (P. Ryun)

Read Luke 15:11-13: And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living.

2 Tim. 4: 10a: For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica.

Questions to Consider

  1. Although parables are fictitious stories, they are based on the lives of real people. So why would a young man want so desperately to leave his family?
  2. Spiritualize your answer to the first question. Why would some of us want to leave the Father’s house?
  3. There is a saying that goes, “The grass is always greener on the other side.” For those us who have wandered off from the Father’s house and stepped into the world, how has your experience been? Decent? Yes, perhaps at first. Why don’t you come back, today! If you know someone like that, then pray for that person right this moment.

Note

  1. It is always a combination of things, right? First, the dull life of a farm boy makes a person feels like they are missing out; second, the rumors of great fun and opportunities in the city lure them as well. What they don’t hear about is the emotional, financial and spiritual cost of trying to find that life. Many have been and continue to be disappointed.
  2. Besides the typical reasons such as loving the world, which is what sidetracked Demas from the narrow path, one other reason can be the unhealthiness of the spiritual community of which you are a part, that is causing more pain than joy. My suggestion: Don’t go the world where more pain awaits; instead, first address your legitimate concerns with your leaders; second, if all else fail, then, look for another fellowship, but know that as long as humans are involved, nothing will match your idealism.
  3. Come on, think of someone! You know a lot of these people. Care enough to pray for them.

Evening Reflection

As we wrap up this day, ask yourself this question: Am I the kind of person who is willing to take on responsibilities at work or church that no one wants to take on? Of course, this question needs to be tempered with other considerations, but I am talking about our basic orientation and attitude. Mull on Philippians 2:5-8 and examine what is in your heart.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross

March 18, Sunday

Today’s AMI Devotional is provided by Pastor Ryun Chang.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Matt. 6:19-20

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The senior pastor of a church died and proceeded on to heaven. At the pearly gates, the pastor’s guardian angel met him to escort him to his heavenly abode—otherwise known as a place prepared for us by Christ (Jn. 14:1-3). Along the way, the pastor spotted the church janitor who had died a few months earlier. The pastor marveled at the grandeur of the janitor’s mansion and thought, “Wow, if his heavenly home looks like that, then surely mine must be bigger and more splendid!”

Then the pastor ran into the old widow of the church who had died only a few weeks earlier. Next to her stood an even more stunning mansion. The pastor again thought, “If this old lady—all she ever did was cook and clean for the church— if she got this big of a mansion as a reward for her faithfulness, then surely mine has to be much greater!”

The pastor, still enraptured by his anticipation, was suddenly stopped by the angel, who said, “Here is your home.” The shaken pastor said, “What do you mean? I don’t see anything.” The angel said, “Look down.” The only thing the pastor could see down there was a house that reminded him of his dog house. The pastor shouted, “How could this be?! The janitor and cook of our church got huge mansions but how come the pastor of the church only gets a dog house?!” The angel said, “Well pastor, we wanted to build you a bigger and nicer mansion, but you wouldn’t send us any supplies, so we did what we could with what little you sent us.”

I heard this story told many years ago and I jotted down as best as I could remember. It is a funny story that raises an important question: What does it mean to send materials to heaven now so that Christ can use them to build our house for us? These, of course, are our rewards stored in heaven—“God . . . rewards those who seek him” (Heb. 11:6). This raises another question as a way to answer the first: Whether you are rich or poor, or hold a high position in the church or no position at all, are you laying up yourselves treasures on earth or in heaven? Jesus tells us to “use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into the eternal dwelling” (Lk. 16:9). Meaning what? Invest your wealth, whether it is much or little in the eyes of the world, into doing God’s work; so that as a result, many may believe and will thank you in heaven for what you did. Now that’s a big mansion. So let’s become long-term investors!

Prayer: Dear God, help us to count the number of our days and prepare for our end accordingly. Remind us to invest into our eternity while living in this world. Help us to fix our eyes on the Lord. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Judges 12

December 10, Sunday

The AMI QT Devotionals from December 4-10 are written by Andy Kim. Andy, a graduate of Northwestern University and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) currently serves as a staff at Radiance Christian Church in San Francisco. And this past November Andy got married… to Jane. Congratulations.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Genesis 26:26-31

When Abimelech went to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath his adviser and Phicol the commander of his army, 27 Isaac said to them, “Why have you come to me, seeing that you hate me and have sent me away from you?” 28 They said, “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you. So we said, let there be a sworn pact between us, between you and us, and let us make a covenant with you, 29 that you will do us no harm, just as we have not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace. You are now the blessed of the Lord.”30 So he made them a feast, and they ate and drank. 31 In the morning they rose early and exchanged oaths. And Isaac sent them on their way, and they departed from him in peace.

After a few years of working in corporate America, I felt the Lord calling me to pursue full-time ministry. The conversation I had with my boss would be one to remember. To provide some context, my boss was a devout Hindu who knew I was a Christian—way too devoted to church work. That day, I stepped into her office and gave her my resignation, explaining that I wanted to pursue full- time ministry. After much disbelief and negotiation, she allowed me to work on a flex schedule that gave me enough time to focus on ministry. But more than these benefits, it was her passing remark that I cherished: She said, “Andrew, you put out good work. But more than that, I feel like having you on my team means I have God on my team.” She joked saying that she wanted all the extra good karma possible, but even if it was a joke it meant everything to me.

In our passage today, Isaac has even a greater testimony to share. Keep in mind, Isaac and Abimelech started on the wrong foot after Isaac lied about his wife Rebekah. Not only this, Abimelech felt threatened by Isaac’s prosperity in his land and forced him out. But even in the midst of all his hatred, somehow, Abimelech returns to Isaac. Why? Because it was evident that the Lord had been with Isaac. Even this pagan Philistine king who hated Isaac couldn’t deny the presence of the Lord upon Isaac and ultimately submits to him! There is no mention of Isaac speaking to Abimelech or doing anything, but both walk away in peace. May we be encouraged to live in a manner so that others may plainly see that the Lord is with us. D.L. Moody once said, “We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining—they just shine.” He believed that the most effective way of showing God was by how we lived. May everything we do, whether it is how we drink or eat, reflect the glory of the Lord so that all may come to know this amazing God!

Prayer: Father, may we be a light on a lampstand that gives light the entire world. Like how the moon reflects the sun, help us to reflect Your light to the people around us. Father, empower the way that we work, serve others, care for others, so that people may see Your love in us. May our lives become living testimonies in which people may come to know You. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 43

November 25, Saturday

The AMI QT Devotionals from November 20-26 are provided by Pastor Joshua Kim of Church of Southland. Joshua, a graduate of Emory University and Columbia Theological Seminary (M.Div.), serves as the pastor of Access group (singles). He is married to Christina.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Genesis 22:7-14

And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

At the heart of the gospel message is a decision. A decision by an infinite God who chose to love a people so undeserved, unmerited, and utterly sinful. A decision made without any obligation but to Himself.

Today’s passage records another decision—the moment when Abraham chooses to put his faith into action. Everything has been prepared for the sacrifice. After carefully laying the wood in order, he binds his son and lays him on top of the altar. In this scene, it’s hard to imagine what is going on in Abraham’s mind—he gave Isaac a cryptic message earlier talking about how God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering. Was he talking about Isaac? Was he talking about the ram? It couldn’t have been the latter as the angel had to quickly intervene before the knife struck Isaac. So what was he talking about?

Commentators note that this statement expressed Abraham’s faith that even if it meant that obeying God would result in the death of his son Isaac, God would provide a way. Abraham believed in God’s promise in that Isaac would be his heir and that his seed would become a great nation. He believed God would somehow keep His promise despite seemingly impossible conditions. And we know that indeed God did provide a way. He provided a ram caught in a thicket, but more so, He provided His one and only Son.

So many parts of this story point to the sacrifice of Jesus. Mount Moriah where all this happened is where Solomon will build the temple. Mount Calvary where Jesus is crucified is located just outside of Jerusalem where the temple dwells. “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” What no animal sacrifice could ever accomplish, the perfect Son of God laid down His life as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. What God would not have Abraham do, He did Himself.

When we trek with Abraham, getting inside his mind, wondering what it’s like to be in his shoes and to lay down his promised son on the altar, agonizing with him in making this decision to obey… and when we realize that ultimately God made that very same decision, it leads us to marvel at how great the Father’s love is for us. For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the cross. Thank You that from the beginning, You had perfect plan to rescue Your people. What You would not force us to do, You did Yourself, so that we may live. As we marvel at this truth, we worship You in response. Thank You for Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 25-26

 

September 5, Tuesday

The AMI QT Devotionals from September 4-10 are provided by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S. F.  Mark, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), has been married to Mira for 21 years; they have two children, Jeremiah and Carissa.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Genesis 1:3-24 (NIV 2011)

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. 6 And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” 7 So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so. 8 God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day. 9 And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good. 11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, 15 and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so. 16 God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth, 18 to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day. 20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day. 24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

In today’s world, creationism is dismissed as a myth or the wishful dreams of the uneducated. CS Lewis once observed that within the scientific discipline, biologists tend to be the most irreligious and that physicists are the most religious. The reason for this general trend is evident. Biologists tend to look at life as a closed system, that there is life and death, a beginning and an end. On the other hand, physicists ultimately have to deal with the mystery of ultimate beginnings and how the universe came to be. Any honest scientist has to confess that the idea of the universe being created from nothing cannot be intellectually satisfying.

I would propose that the view that is better than any theory out there is the belief that the universe began by the initiative of God. In fact, the idea that everything has its beginnings in God’s initiative is at the heart of Biblical Christianity. The world was created because God desired its creation. The fallen mankind can be saved because before the foundation of the world, God chose his Son as a ransom for our sin. We can love because God first loved us from the very beginning and we can know Him because He has made Himself known. Our fundamental understanding of God comes from the belief that everything starts with Him, including our own existence.

The acceptance of God as our creator is the most logical place to start a relationship with Him. Some years ago, a young woman, who was wrestling with her faith, asked me, “Did God create man or did man create God?’’ And whether she realized it or not, she landed on the foundational question that every single person, whether you are religious or not, has to answer. And ultimately your answer to this question places you on two completely different paths of life. Sadly, this young woman decided that God was an invention of man and decided to walk away from the Christian faith.
Our world is filled with distorted ideas of who God is and what spirituality should look like. Every idol and every false system of theology begins with a rejection of God’s initiative and replaces it with the initiative of man. We become the creators of our own gods. The challenge that awaits us as Christians is how we can break the stronghold of idolatry and the deception of false gods (e.g., materialism).

Prayer: Lord, we thank You for taking the initiative in creating us and ultimately loving the ones You created. As You have first loved us through Christ, teach us to love others in the same way. Help us to submit our lives to You so that You can shape us as the potter shapes the clay. Reminds us that in You we move and breathe and have our being. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 26


Lunch Break Study

Ephesians 1:3-10 (NIV 2011): Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship n through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

Questions to Consider:

  1. When did God come up with the plan of salvation?
  2. Why and for what reason did God predestine our relationship with Him?
  3. Where does our salvation fall into the greater scope of God’s plan?

Notes:

  1. We read that God chose His people for salvation even before the creation of the world. This reminds us that none of the events of history came as a surprise to God. Sin and all of its consequences were permitted by the will of God so that He could choose a people for Himself solely on the basis of His grace.
  2. Although there is a lot of debate about predestination, the apostle Paul’s main emphasis was on God’s love as the primary reason for initiating this relationship with us. From the beginning of time, it was God’s plan to take sinners like us and adopt us into His family as spiritual sons and daughters.
  3. Man’s salvation is the climax of God’s saving work. It is the crowning achievement in the redemption of the whole created order. One day God will bring all things into unity under the reign and rule of Christ. This is why Paul tells us that all of creation waits eagerly for the sons of God to be revealed. (Romans 8:19)

Evening Reflection

Every day is a gift from the Lord. It is one more day to celebrate His salvation and to live in the joyful knowledge that God has known you and loved you from the very beginning. As parents carefully plan their future family, Christ has been preparing a place for you in God’s family. Reflect on this truth and pray to the Lord.

September 4, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals from September 4-10 are provided by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S. F.  Mark, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.), has been married to Mira for 21 years; they have two children, Jeremiah and Carissa.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Genesis 1:1-3 (ESV)

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. 3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.[1]

As we look at the creation account, it begins with arguably the most famous sentence in English literature: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”   This short sentence tells us so much about the nature of God: His eternity, His infinitude, and His power.

The fact that God stands outside of the confines of time and space, that He is there before the beginning, is a truth that was meant to shake our lives.  The book of Ecclesiastes tells us that God has placed eternity into the hearts of men.  There is a desire in all of us to be immortal, to have our lives count for something beyond these 70 years; and if given a chance we will do almost anything to extend the length of our lives.  A couple of weeks ago, I was reading an article about some of the new designer drugs against cancer; and sadly, the title was “How much would you pay for an extra month of life?”  This was a report on some of the new cancer treatments that are not covered by insurance, which can run upwards of $25,000 per month to extend a patient’s life for 2 to 4 months at the maximum.  These pharmaceutical companies are making millions of dollars, capitalizing on the natural human desire to live forever.

Most people think about eternity when it is too late, but the life of faith begins when we seriously consider the impact of eternity on our lives.  The doctrine of eternity both challenges us and comforts us.  How much would our lives change, if we truly believed that “right now counts for eternity,” or if we realized that the true importance of this life is that it determines the destiny of our lives forever.  For those of us who are looking for answers in this life, the doctrine of eternity even provides comfort.  Perhaps a million years from now, we can look back at the difficult times of life, and discover that God has wasted nothing from our lives on Earth, that every agony gives birth to an eternal joy.  The eternal God gives us the gift of eternity through his Son, who provides hope for our despair and shines light into our darkness.

Prayer: Father, our minds cannot comprehend that before time You were!  Even in this most basic concept, we are reminded that there is no one who compares to You.  Your ways are truly higher than our ways and Your thoughts higher than our thoughts.  Give us the humility to recognize our place as Your creation and Your place as our creator.  As clay in the hands of a potter, may we be shaped for Your purpose and will.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 25


Lunch Break Study

Read: Ecclesiastes 3:9-15 (ESV) What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. 14 I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. 15 That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.[2]

Questions to Consider:

  1. What should be our attitude towards the difficulties of work?
  2. As we go through the busyness of life, what allows us to keep perspective?
  3. Why is God’s eternal nature important for us to keep in mind?

Notes:

  1. The Hebrew word translated as “business” is probably better rendered as “travail or labor.” This is a description of work that is under the curse of sin.  We have to spend much of our lives working for things that will not last.  Fortunately, God deems this to be the appropriate thing in this life.  Again the Hebrew word translated as “beautiful” can be better translated as “appropriate.”  The fact that God sees this as the right thing to do allows us to take pleasure even in our work.
  2. We are not to be consumed by our work because there is something far more significant to live for. Too many times, we enjoy work too much and forget the curse that makes the fruit of our labor insignificant.  For this reason, God has placed eternity in the hearts of men so that we would weigh things from an eternal perspective.
  3. God’s eternal nature should cause us to revere God and live in the fear of Him. Only the things that God does and says are guaranteed to last forever.  Most of what we do will not stand the test of time.   Although there are some questions about the meaning of verse 15, I believe it is alluding to God’s desire to restore man’s ability to live with Him for all of time.  Because of sin, we were driven away from paradise, but God sent His Son to seek those who were lost.

Evening Reflection

When is the last time you gave serious consideration to eternity and life after death?  Does this cause you fear or anxiety, or are you looking forward to reuniting wit h Christ?  Take time tonight to reflect on the eternal treasures that you are building up, and how you can adjust your life to pursue those things that will last forever.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ge 1:1–3). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ec 3:9–15). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

September 3, Sunday

The AMI QT Devotionals from August 28-September 3 are provided by Hee Jung Lee. Hee Jung, a graduate of Biblical Theological Seminary, serves at Catalyst Agape Church (New Jersey) along with her husband Pastor Sam Lee. They have four beautiful daughters.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Commissioned”

Luke 9:1-3

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, He gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey-no staff, no bag no bread, no money, no extra shirt.”

In this story found in Luke 9, Jesus gathers His disciples and does a few things whereby He sets a platform for them to have confidence to do His work. First, He commissions them by giving them power and authority, authorizing them. Jesus gives them simple commands—drive out demons, cure diseases, etc.—which seem very difficult to anyone. He releases them to demonstrate to others that the Kingdom of God was at hand and that Jesus had the answers to their sufferings, whether physical, spiritual, or emotional. Then, He also tells the disciples to take nothing for the journey. By this, He positions them to trust in Him for their provisional needs, setting them up to experience His power firsthand. Jesus wanted them to experience that God was not only capable but incredibly faithful. They were about to see that wherever they went, they would be carrying God’s very presence with them, and that God would always be with them.

These are truths for us today. Through the redemptive work of Jesus, we are now carriers of God’s presence to demonstrate to the world what the arrival of our Savior means for them. It is the Lord’s pleasure to reveal Himself to people through us. We need only to trust Him and mindfully step out as the disciples were commissioned to do. The Lord has already qualified us for His work. As with the disciples, He has given us a platform to be confident in Him. So let us not take this commissioning lightly, but allow ourselves to be that vessel that brings God’s answers to others—this is the good works He has prepared for us to do. Let us be intentional in our relationships and interactions with those whom God has placed in our lives, in order that we would be a source by which they will experience God’s amazing and faithful demonstration of Himself through our words, prayers, actions—and release of His miraculous ways.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You so much for not only trusting us to do Your work but equipping us with Your very presence to do it. Please help us to be willing but to also be compelled by Your love to be that vessel. Allow us, Lord, to experience and also demonstrate Your great power working through us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bible Reading: Isaiah 24

August 21, Monday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Pastor Ryun Chang.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHTS FOR TODAY

1 John 3:18-20 (NIV 1984)

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongues but with actions and in truth.  This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.”

When facing a temptation—like looking at porn or spreading rumors—recognizing the choice between sinning and not sinning isn’t as hard as choosing not to sin.   What’s difficult is having to choose between two seemingly valid options. Consider the following example which I wrote while attending seminary in Southern California.

“Last Wednesday, I was once again fighting the traffic to get to my 8 am class.  The ride to the school, located about 30 miles from my home, usually takes anywhere from 45 minutes to one and a half hours.  I try to be on time out of respect for my professor and to avoid my grade being docked for tardiness.  That morning, as I was cruising fast, I saw an elderly man pushing his stalled car off the road; I continued to drive.  Immediately, however, my conscience began to bother me: Well, what is more important: my grade or helping that man out?  So, I made a U‑turn to return to him, only to find that he was already being helped.  Although I was late to my class, again, I didn’t feel as bad as other times because I felt like I had made the right decision (though a tad late).”

After citing this incidence that happened some 30 years ago, I began to feel that perhaps I had patted myself on the back for no good reason, and as a result, my readers would frown on me.  But then I realized that that is my point: as believers, we should cultivate a sensitive conscience so that we don’t feel totally satisfied with the good that we’ve done, either because we could’ve done it better (e.g., stopping for the elderly man right away) or chosen another action that is better.

Facing such situation, John tells us to find rest for our condemned hearts in God who is greater than our hearts—meaning, don’t seek satisfaction or escape from guilt by justifying our actions, however good or almost good they may be, but throw yourself at God’s mercy.  John says that God knows everything—meaning, He knows you tried, He knows you feel bad, and He knows you love Him.  With that in mind, “let us not love with words or tongues but with actions and in truth” today.

Prayer: Dear God, I’ve failed to reflect Your light to the world so many times.  At the same time, I’ve tried to justify my standing before You with good deeds, which shows how deficient my understanding of Your grace and mercy is.  Thank You for being always being gracious and merciful towards me.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 9


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 18:9-14: To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Questions to Consider

  1. In light of 1 John 3:18-20, how would you advise the Pharisee who was quite confident of his own “Christian” performance?
  2. In light of 1 John 3:18-20, how would you advise the tax collector who felt so miserable over what he failed to carry out?
  3. What is your main struggle? Is it more like that of the Pharisee or the tax collector?       Pray about what action to take in order to find peace for your troubled heart.

Notes

  1. An example of an advice: “Mr. Pharisee, while ‘you give a tenth of your spices . . . you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness’ (Mt. 23:23). Therefore, don’t feel too good about yourself by selectively appraising your life; instead, throw yourself at God’s mercy.”
  2. An example of an advice: “Mr. tax collector, you did the wise thing by throwing yourself at God’s grace and mercy since you’ve done little to please Him. Now that you have been ‘justified before God’, I urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain’ (2 Cor. 6:1).  From now on, ‘produce fruit in keeping with repentance’ (Mt. 3:8)—‘not with words or tongues but with actions and in truth’.”
  3. Personal response.

 


EVENING REFLECTION

Looking back to your entire day, did you experience feeling guilty or ashamed?  Was it over a sin or genuine mistake on your part, or something good that you could have done better or should have done?  Before vowing to do better tomorrow, thereby feeling better about yourself by your deed, let’s find our rest in God.  Throw yourself at God’s mercy and repeat what the tax collector told God: “‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner and someone who doesn’t produce as good a fruit as I should.”