October 28, Sunday

Devotional Thoughts for Today 

“Unseen, Ugly, and Radical Beauty” 

Jeremiah 48:31-33, 36, 46-47 

Therefore I wail for Moab; I cry out for all Moab; for the men of Kir-hareseth I mourn. 32 More than for Jazer I weep for you, O vine of Sibmah! Your branches passed over the sea, reached to the Sea of Jazer; on your summer fruits and your grapes the destroyer has fallen. 33 Gladness and joy have been taken away from the fruitful land of Moab; I have made the wine cease from the winepresses;
no one treads them with shouts of joy; the shouting is not the shout of joy… 36 Therefore my heart moans for Moab like a flute, and my heart moans like a flute for the men of Kir-hareseth. Therefore the riches they gained have perished… 46 Woe to you, O Moab! The people of Chemosh are undone,
for your sons have been taken captive, and your daughters into captivity. 47 Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in the latter days, declares the Lord.” Thus far is the judgment on Moab.

Have you ever been happy that your friend failed?  They missed the last shot, made mistakes in their performance, or didn’t get the promotion they wanted.  You don’t want colossal failure for them; you just don’t want them to outshine you by a mile.  Maybe you feel better about yourself because of their failure.  Or, have you ever felt bad when your friend succeeded?  You’re happy for them, but at the same time, you’re not.  It’s almost like you can’t celebrate for them because you feel sorry for yourself.  If not, good for you!  But many of us have had thoughts along these lines.  It’s not that we despise our friends, but we love ourselves so much.  It’s pretty ugly.  It comes from a selfish spirit, an envious heart, and a competitive impulse.  Maybe it’s actually a form of hatred—like Jonah, who didn’t want God to forgive Nineveh because they were the enemy of Israel.  He didn’t want mercy for them, because he thought that they didn’t deserve it—again, pretty ugly.  Even scarier is how we can hide our ugliness from everyone else—but not from God.  This should remind us all—we don’t deserve God’s mercy either.

Chapters about God’s judgment against sin and against nations like Philistia and Moab can be pretty heavy stuff.  But always traveling alongside God’s ferocious anger at sin is His audacious passion for a lost creation.  Even when Moab’s fate seems set, we see God’s compassion.  Neither God nor Jeremiah—who is known as the weeping prophet for a reason—delights in the suffering of the Moabites: “I wail for Moab; I cry out for all Moab; my heart moans for Moab like a flute.” This is not the unseen ugliness of the human heart; it’s the radical beauty of God’s compassion.  At the end of the chapter, even for Moab, is a promise of restoration: “Yet I will restore the fortunes of Moab in the latter days, declares the Lord”—which points not to nationhood or prosperity but redemption.  In fact, through the prophet Isaiah, God declares of Jesus: “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6).  This means good news for all nations!  Never forget that we don’t deserve this.  And always celebrate and be glad that we have it through Jesus!

Prayer:  God, we thank You that in Jesus we have received mercy!  We don’t deserve it.  We deserve the opposite.  Expose the unseen ugliness of our hearts and lead us to the radical beauty of Your grace.  Help us today to see the beauty of Your compassions, the strength of Your victory, and make us a people who will live for Your fame and renown.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Peter 3

September 23, Sunday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided Jasmin Izumikawa. Jasmin, a member of the Church of Southland, is currently a high school teacher.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“He Walks with Me”

John 20:15-16

“Dear woman, why are you crying?” Jesus asked her. “Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said to Him, “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have put Him, and I will get Him.” 16 “Mary!” Jesus said. She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which means, Teacher, in Hebrew).       

One of the first classes I taught was an English immersion class. The school called it “Creative Dramatics.” This class consisted of students with minimal to no English proficiency. There was no set curriculum and the only core text recommended for the class came out of a conversational English workbook from the 1980’s. Students sat in scraggly rows, chanting basic conversational English phrases back and forth to each other. It was painfully loud, the lessons were dry, and the students sounded like sad, monotone robots chanting in unison, “Where-is the- library?” “Turn-left, walk down-the- hall, then- turn right.”

A few weeks in, I had just enough. Driven to my wit’s end, I halted this tired chorus of GPS voice navigators and decided to fly by the seat of my pants. I scribbled the words of Emily Dickinson on a transparency sheet and slapped it on top of a dusty overhead projector. I recited to my students the poem, “’Hope’ is the Thing with Feathers.”

Their assignment: Translate the poem into their own native languages. They precariously took out their pocket translators and began to write. Translations in Spanish, Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Indonesian began to emerge on pieces of paper. Almost immediately, I started to see engagement and excitement as students began to collaboratively piece together their understanding and translations of this poem. The next day, they jabbered away in various languages, correcting each other, making suggestions, and revising their writings. Then, I gave them the task of reciting the poem in English, line by line, from memory. As the days went by, the class would nominate students, calling them out to the front by name, one by one, to recite the poem in English and from memory; for the brief minute they stood there reciting, their peers listened, hungrily. Although some words were slurred and choppy, they understood the heartbeat of the poem, and I could tell because the tones of their voices changed, the tempo slowed, and there was joy as their peers patted them on their backs and applauded them. From a classroom of dry, reluctant readers, there was now the presence of thirty-six hungry poets who had breathed new life into Dickinson’s poem. Those words would not mean anything at all if the students could not connect to it, struggle through it, and celebrate it in their own encounters with it first.

Up until the point Jesus appeared before the tomb, Mary Magdalene may have recognized Him only as a teacher. Jesus must have known this, so He says to her, “Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brothers and say to them, ‘I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God’” (John 20:17). It is as though He was saying, “I’m fulfilling what I came to do. Did you forget I am your Savior? I’m always with you, Mary.” She had now encountered Jesus as risen LORD, living God, and her personal Savior. Her life changed completely. Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the LORD!” Then she gave them His message.

The hymnist, C. Austin Miles, who wrote the words to “I Come to the Garden Alone,” celebrates his personal encounter with Jesus. He wrote:

I come to the garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses,
And the voice I hear,
The Son of God discloses

And He walks with me,
And He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other, has ever, known!

How beautiful, how life-changing, and how exciting is the life that encounters the living God, our loving Savior? His Word is not a lifeless and disconnected book. It is a living promise that beckons you to join Him in the struggle and in the joy of knowing Him personally. Perhaps you have found yourself in a season of spiritual dryness. Have prayers fallen from your lips? Sing to Him and hold onto His words. Let go of your fears and doubts and be reminded, He is always with You, He embraces you, and calls out to you. Maybe today, more than ever, you need to hear Him call out your name and to walk with Him in the garden alone, to be told you are His. May the LORD bless you and give you the assurance that He is with you.

Prayer: LORD, what an incredible encounter Mary had with You. I want to meet with You in a personal way and walk with You through this life. Your voice is what I want to hear, so open my ears so that I may hear. Thank You for Your assurance that You have never left me. I love You, God! You are so good to me. Soften my heart and help me to let go of my fears and doubts. Breathe life over me with Your words. What have I to fear when You’re right here with me, speaking to me? Thank you, LORD, for being my personal Savior, the living God, our risen King. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Job 38

September 22, Saturday

Today’s AMI Quiet Time is written by Claudia Robbie who serves at Journey Church of Atlanta.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Matthew 20:28

Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

For a while, the Lord has been challenging my idea of servanthood and humility. “I’m older, I’m a leader, I disciple these people, I have kids, I’m tired ….” are reasons I give God when I am confronted to serve in a way that I think is beneath my scope. I can get frustrated when others don’t serve, especially when there is a need. But God has been asking me: “Are you the first to serve when there is a need? Are you a servant or a leader?”

I know I am a servant, but in this season, God has been working in my heart and bringing me to another degree of glory where He has freed me from lifelong lies.  He is bringing me to repentance of long forgotten sins, and I realize just how much of my time and mind is taken with ME (my anxieties, desires, hopes, boundaries, etc.).  But it ceased being about ME when I said yes to God and I am experiencing this next layer now.

He wants a servant’s heart, not just acts of service so I can get some imaginary merit badge. It’s not just in discipleship, administration, teaching, or counseling (my roles and responsibilities as a leader). I am called to be a servant where there is need, in or outside my church, teaching from the front or on my knees scrubbing a toilet, in public or private, whether someone else has a servant heart or not. Because what floors me about Jesus is that He served me to His death when I was His enemy.

What would it do for those I lead if they see me spent to the end for Jesus, not just in the front or at the top but in the lowly and despised things? What would it do for my heart as a leader if I were the first to clean a toilet or take out the trash? Would it keep my heart tender, soft, and humble before God? Maybe a servant’s heart is God’s protection against pride and self sufficiency for me as I lead.

I am not advocating or suggesting doing more to do more. But we should ask ourselves, Is my heart in a posture of humility and servanthood that I can hear God when He whispers that it is my turn to serve and love with the lowliest of things. Am I free enough from my dreams, desires, agendas, and hopes (even in ministry) that I can hear when God says, “I want you to take out the trash today”?

What is God saying to the servant’s heart He is cultivating in you today?

Prayer: In our busy lives, Father, we become deaf to You. We believe it’s about position, responsibilities, and capabilities, but it’s about You reclaiming us. Teach us to be servants in all that we do as we listen for Your leading.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Job 36-37

September 21, Friday

Today’s AMI Devotional is written by Jin Ha Lee who serves at Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia.  Jin Ha, a CPA, graduated from Drexel University and is getting married this November. Congratulations!

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Listening Ear”

Jeremiah 38:17-20

Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. 18 But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.” 19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, lest I be handed over to them and they deal cruelly with me.” 20 Jeremiah said, “You shall not be given to them. Obey now the voice of the Lord in what I say to you, and it shall be well with you, and your life shall be spared.”

There was a season in my life when I sought advice from many different older brothers and sisters—I would go to this person to get his advice, call this person to get her perspective, and on-and-on. But, I had a problem. In going to many people, I wasn’t really hearing what they were saying, but I was looking for people to give the answer I wanted to hear.

King Zedekiah was had a similar problem. He sought Jeremiah for God’s Word multiple times and even heard what God said, yet he lacked faith. King Zedekiah was not seeking after an answer from the Lord to direct the course of his life—though he cared enough to seek it—but not enough to respond in faith to it.

The context of this passage was that the Babylonians had been temporarily deterred by the Egyptians. It was only a matter of time before the Babylonians would be at his doorsteps. In desperation Zedekiah sought out Jeremiah—again. Jeremiah gave a clear answer from the Lord: “…if you surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live….” It was actually a very gracious response to the mess that Zedekiah created by rebelling against Nebuchadnezzar who had set Zedekiah as king. He had the chance to save not only his life but his family and the city.

However, Zedekiah immediately responds that he’s scared of the deserters mistreating him. Maybe he felt that the Israelites would be upset at him and blame him for the loss, or he felt embarrassed for starting a conflict with the Babylonians that he couldn’t win. In any case, his fears spoke more loudly in his heart than God’s Word. He focused so much on his fears that he missed out on the chance to respond to God’s Word.

Going back to my story, the situation I was trying to handle blew up.  But through that experience I was humbled and learned to seek what God has to say through godly counsel more than what I wanted to hear. It was a very valuable lesson! Let’s ask ourselves this question:  Am I truly ready to listen and respond to God in faith when God speaks to me? Or am I just going to ignore His word if it’s not what I want to hear?

Prayer: Lord, we want to listen intently to Your Word. Would You please reveal Yourself to us and help us to know You intimately? Please help us to respond in faith, knowing that You are holy, loving, and good. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Job 35


Lunch Break Study

Read Acts 18:9-10: And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10 for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11 And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10: But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Questions to Consider

  1. How did God reveal Himself to Paul during the hardships of missions?
  2. What does Paul’s response show about what he believes about God?
  3. How can we live by faith despite our fears or difficult scenarios?

Note

  1. God revealed Himself by encouraging Paul in a vision. He told Paul not be afraid but to continue his mission for the gospel, knowing that God is with him and that He would protect him. God also let Paul know that he was not alone but surrounded by believers. Up to this point Paul had already been persecuted by the Jews from Thessalonica who chased him out of Thessalonica and Berea.
  2. Paul believed in the Lord and stayed at the city for one year and six months; he had faith that the Lord was with him. His response in 2 Corinthians showed that he believed that God’s grace was sufficient for him, even in difficulties and weaknesses.
  3. Personal response. Zedekiah focused so much on his fears, instead of trusting in God, whereas, though Paul also faced difficult and costly situations throughout his mission trips, he focused on the Lord. Both of their actions showed where their faith was. I don’t think faith is a matter of rolling up our sleeves and blindly jumping headlong into situations in our own strength. Certain situations have legitimate concerns, costs, and fears. But, spending time with the Lord, seeking Him, being in an intimate relationship with Him and the church helps us to move forward in faith by His encouragement, grace, and love. We can ask God to show us and remind us of who He is, and that we could look at Him rightly and step forward despite the fears, difficulties, and weaknesses.

Evening Reflection

How has the Lord revealed Himself to you recently? Although different situations we face may bring about fear, hardship, or even apathy, we can find rest, strength, and joy in the Lord. Let’s ask the Lord to reveal Himself to us, and that we would grow in an intimate and genuine relationship with Him.

September 20, Thursday

Today’s AMI Quiet Time is provided by Pastor Peter Yoon who is the Lead Pastor at Kairos Christian Church in San Diego. 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Thank the Lord for Timely Friends”

Jeremiah 38:7-13 (NIV)

But Ebed-Melek, a Cushite, an official in the royal palace, heard that they had put Jeremiah into the cistern. While the king was sitting in the Benjamin Gate, 8 Ebed-Melek went out of the palace and said to him, 9 “My lord the king, these men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah the prophet. They have thrown him into a cistern, where he will starve to death when there is no longer any bread in the city.” 10 Then the king commanded Ebed-Melek the Cushite, “Take thirty men from here with you and lift Jeremiah the prophet out of the cistern before he dies.”11 So Ebed-Melek took the men with him and went to a room under the treasury in the palace. He took some old rags and worn-out clothes from there and let them down with ropes to Jeremiah in the cistern. 12 Ebed-Melek the Cushite said to Jeremiah, “Put these old rags and worn-out clothes under your arms to pad the ropes.” Jeremiah did so, 13 and they pulled him up with the ropes and lifted him out of the cistern. And Jeremiah remained in the courtyard of the guard.

Our family recently moved into a new place—but not without some resistance from our children. In our previous home, our children had developed lots of friendships around the neighborhood. They spent hours and hours with friends engaging in all sorts of fun activities, but in moving into a new home, my kids (particularly our 4th grade son, Nathan) knew that they’d have to start anew the daunting task of making new friends. Soon enough, as our boys began to explore the new neighborhood, they met few other boys who were just as interested in sports, video games, …sports, video games…and more sports and video games. =)  That afternoon, Nathan came back home with a big smile on his face and said to me, “Dad, Nick and Tommy are my friends now.” There’s something about good friendships that even children know to value in life.

In this passage, Jeremiah was thrown into a well by the city’s officials. He had been warning of the impending doom of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonian Empire. God had revealed that the only chance for survival was to surrender. The public officials did not want the Jews to listen to Jeremiah’s prophecies, although the words came from God. So they approached King Zedekiah to obtain a permission to put away Jeremiah. The king, perhaps in despair or fear, barely raises any concern and says: “The king can do nothing to oppose you.” And the officials immediately arrest Jeremiah and leave him at the bottom of a well to die of starvation. Jeremiah was in a bleak and hopeless situation.

However, God sends a “friend,” a Cushite, to foil the plans of the officials and rescues Jeremiah from the well (see https://www.gotquestions.org/Cushites.html). The Cushite could have been severely punished by King Zedekiah for going against the wishes of the officials as well as the king’s permission to put away Jeremiah. With courage, the Cushite changes the mind of the king and carries out a rescue plan in lifting Jeremiah out of the well.

At times, God sends a timely friend. This “friend” might not be someone who is popular with the crowds, nor wealthy. This “friend” might even have been overlooked as an insignificant person. Yet, their timely presence and the encouragement he/she brings may perhaps be the difference between despair and hope.

Today, I’d like to encourage you to be that “friend” to others.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You for the friendships in my own life. But today, lead me in extending Your friendship to those around me in my workplace, school, church, neighborhood, etc. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Job 34


Lunch Break Study 

John 15:12-17 (NIV)  

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. 17 This is my command: Love each other.

Questions to Consider

  1. What qualities does Jesus highlight in defining a friendship?
  2. What separates a mere servant from a friend in God’s Kingdom?
  3. What comparison does Jesus use in describing how we are to love others?

Notes

  1. Jesus highlights the quality of laying down one’s life. He also highlights obedience to the command of loving others.
  2. A servant is outside of God’s business plans, while a friend has been invited into knowing everything that Jesus had learned from the Father.
  3. Jesus says that we are to love others as “I have loved you.” It’s a tall order. However, when the Spirit of Christ dwells in your heart, you are moved to love others as Jesus has loved us.

Evening Reflection

How are you being a friend to those around you these days? In what practical ways can you show your friendship and encouragement to few people in your own life?

September 19, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Through Thick and Thin”

Jeremiah 37:11-21 (NASB)

Now it happened when the army of the Chaldeans had lifted the siege from Jerusalem because of Pharaoh’s army, 12 that Jeremiah went out from Jerusalem to go to the land of Benjamin in order to take possession of some property there among the people. 13 While he was at the Gate of Benjamin, a captain of the guard whose name was Irijah, the son of Shelemiah the son of Hananiah was there; and he arrested Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “You are going over to the Chaldeans!” 14 But Jeremiah said, “A lie! I am not going over to the Chaldeans”; yet he would not listen to him. So Irijah arrested Jeremiah and brought him to the officials. 15 Then the officials were angry at Jeremiah and beat him, and they put him in jail in the house of Jonathan the scribe, which they had made into the prison. 16 For Jeremiah had come into the dungeon, that is, the vaulted cell; and Jeremiah stayed there many days.

17 Now King Zedekiah sent and took him out; and in his palace the king secretly asked him and said, “Is there a word from the Lord?” And Jeremiah said, “There is!” Then he said, “You will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon!” 18 Moreover Jeremiah said to King Zedekiah, “In what way have I sinned against you, or against your servants, or against this people, that you have put me in prison? 19 Where then are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you or against this land’? 20 But now, please listen, O my lord the king; please let my petition come before you and do not make me return to the house of Jonathan the scribe, that I may not die there.” 21 Then King Zedekiah gave commandment, and they committed Jeremiah to the court of the guardhouse and gave him a loaf of bread daily from the bakers’ street, until all the bread in the city was gone. So Jeremiah remained in the court of the guardhouse.

We live in a world of ideas. Whether at school, work or church, one will most certainly encounter someone expressing their ideas, or express their own. However, one of the many critiques set against this age of ideas, is society’s growing inability to discuss ideas without becoming combative. Timothy Muehlhoff of Biola University once lamented how we now live in, what he calls, the “argument culture.” Interestingly enough, I don’t believe we’ve only recently entered the argument culture. Mankind has been fighting over ideas for quite some time, from current socio-political issues to biblical times. Sometimes debates over ideas has been civil, while others have not. In extreme cases, people have even experienced violence for expressing themselves. In fact, the further back in time one goes, the more violence over ideas one would expect to see. The prophet Jeremiah, for example, was imprisoned and beaten for faithfully expressing the Word of God.

In the passage above we see Jeremiah make his way to the land of Benjamin to claim property. When Jeremiah reaches the gate, the captain, Irijah, accuses Jeremiah of defecting to the Chaldeans. Several years prior to this, Jeremiah had been preaching the word he’d received from God, warning Israel of the coming destruction of the city (Jer. 21:9 [NASB]). Irijah probably concluded that Jeremiah’s message stood against the best interests of Benjamin. Because of this, despite Jeremiah’s denials, Jeremiah is arrested and imprisoned without trial. Pausing here in the narrative, I can’t help but wonder how often the message of the Gospel is deduced to be against the best interest of the people, especially here in California. The reality of the current cultural climate is sometimes troubling to reflect on. How often do I sweep my convictions aside, succumbing to social pressure? In Pastor Josh’s words, “How often do we [I] live as if God didn’t exist?” Do I have the strength to go to prison for the Gospel? Or to the grave?

As the passage progresses, things do not improve for Jeremiah. He is brought from the prison, in secret, before King Zedekiah and asked, “Is there a word from the LORD?” (Jer. 37:17 [NASB]). Now it’s obvious, Zedekiah isn’t asking for the actual word of God, rather, for some favorable news regarding the kingdom. Sometimes I ask myself what makes someone a hero. Generally, a hero is someone admired for their courage or accomplishments, or perhaps both. Unflinching, Jeremiah looks into the eyes of the king, and delivers God’s message exactly as revealed. “You will be given into the hand of the king of Babylon!” (Jer. 37:17 [NASB]). What makes someone a hero? Standing in the face of the authorities that threaten you with prison and death, and holding firm to God’s word. I hope we can all look to God for the strength to follow Jeremiah’s example. Let’s stand hand-in-hand together for God’s word, holding steadfast to the Truth, speaking it to the world in love.

Prayer: Father, it’s easy for me to be strong and stand up for you in church, around brothers and sisters in Christ and in my quiet time alone with You. It becomes much more complicated when I fear for my job, my freedom, my safety or even meaningless things, like social status. I pray You would remind Your church every day, that in You we find the resolve to stand up for the Truth. We need you more and more each day.

Bible Reading for Today: Job 33 (We apologize for the error on yesterday’s QT. The reading should have been Job 32. It has been corrected accordingly.)


Lunch Break Study

Read: 2 Timothy 4:7: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;” (NASB)

Questions to Consider

  1. What did Paul’s “course” look like?
  2. What would “finishing the course” look like in today’s day and age?
  3. Reflect on this passage and consider what “finishing the course” would look like in your own life

Notes

  1. Paul went from high social status as a Pharisee, to (what the pagans considered) a persecuted “cult leader” as he traveled all over to spread the Gospel and plant churches. Like the rest of the apostles, Paul endured beatings, imprisonment, torture and ultimately death for the sake of Christ, all with complete confidence in his convictions and commitment to God. Paul, like Jeremiah and the others God has called for His work, sets a shining example for the church to follow.
  2. Though the difficulties we experience may take many forms,  finishing the course in modern times may look much the same as the past: looking to God for the strength to stand beside brothers and sisters in Christ for the sake of the Gospel.
  3. Ultimately, I to serve full time in ministry. I’m not sure exactly how that will manifest, or where in the world my service will take me, so for now my answer is a bit generic: I simply hope I can faithfully serve God and His people, until my days are spent.

Evening Reflection

According to Kairos’ Pastor Peter, the most misquoted verse in the Bible may be Phil. 4:13. Time after time this verse is cited when we haven’t trained quite as hard as we should have for the upcoming Spartan race. However in the context of standing firm for the Gospel, Paul’s words are quite relevant. Reflect on the idea of finding strength to endure in God, and what that means for you.

September 17, Monday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is written by Esther Chailim. Esther, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, is currently serving as the Director of Ministries at Kairos Christian Church (San Diego) and pursuing a Masters in Christian Ministry and Leadership at Talbot School of Theology.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Heart of Prayer”

Jeremiah 37:1-8

“Zedekiah son of Josiah was made king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; he reigned in place of Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim.Neither he nor his attendants nor the people of the land paid any attention to the words the Lord had spoken through Jeremiah the prophet. King Zedekiah, however, sent Jehukal son of Shelemiah with the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to Jeremiah the prophet with this message: “Please pray to the Lord our God for us.” Now Jeremiah was free to come and go among the people, for he had not yet been put in prison. Pharaoh’s army had marched out of Egypt, and when the Babylonians who were besieging Jerusalem heard the report about them, they withdrew from Jerusalem.Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of me, ‘Pharaoh’s army, which has marched out to support you, will go back to its own land, to Egypt. Then the Babylonians will return and attack this city; they will capture it and burn it down.’”

Picture1As a teenager, I went through a rebellious stage and took out my frustration and
bitterness on my mother.  Sadly, this ultimately put a strain in our relationship for years to follow.  However, several years after I became a believer, the Lord stirred my heart to pray for our relationship to heal.  Living 100 miles apart, I thought this was the least I could do. So, I began to pray for my mom’s salvation and for our relationship to be restored. I prayed that God would soften her heart so that she could know Jesus.  I prayed that God would give me patience and help me to love her as Christ loves her.  I prayed that somehow, He would miraculously heal our relationship. But, as time passed, the tension in our relationship only deepened. After visits home to see my mom, feelings of guilt arose as I realized how quickly I got agitated over miniscule things. Frustrated, I thought, “God, why arent you answering my prayers?  Why isn’t our relationship changing? I don’t understand!

One day, as my mom and I were taking a stroll in the park, we got into a heated disagreement, leaving me feeling pretty down.  We parted ways and once again, I was left feeling both upset and guilty. Later that week, I felt the Lord pierce my heart where it hurt the most: my pride.  He revealed to me that my attitude towards my mom was sinful because up until that point, I had always felt justified in my actions towards her. And though I felt guilty, I wasn’t willing to let all the past hurts go.  In short, He revealed a new depth of my sin that I had never realized.

In the passage today, we read about King Zedekiah asking Jeremiah for prayer. Threat was upon the king, and he was desperate for help.  Though the Lord had already prophesied Babylon’s defeat over Jerusalem (Jer. 21:4-7), Zedekiah ignored the Lord and still pleaded for a favorable outcome.  The problem is that the king was looking for circumstantial change, butunwilling to submit himself to hear from God (v. 2).  In turn, God did not answer Zedekiah’s prayer.

My prayers for my mom, though earnest and seemingly “holy,” were no different than Zedekiah’s prayer.  In truth, I wanted my circumstances, that is, my mom, to change, but I wasn’t positioning myself to hear what God wanted to reveal about me.  It wasn’t until God disclosed my sin that I was able to finally hear from God and repent of my bitterness, judgement and pride.  Then, and only then, did I truly begin to see my relationship with my mom change; not because SHE changed, but because God changed me.  

Often times, we subconsciously come to prayer with a set agenda.  We pray for people and things to change, and yet we forget that we need to be changed. I still struggle with this, but more and more, I realize that prayer is not about changing circumstance; prayer is about changing us.  The question is, do we allow God to mold and shape us through prayer?  

Prayer: Lord, You are in control, not me.  Help me to lay aside my own plans and surrender them to You.  I invite You, Holy Spirit, to come and speak into the areas of my life that are self-seeking. Help me to be God-centered and continue to shape and mold me to be more like Jesus. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Job 31


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 66:16-20: Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you what he has done for me. 17 I cried out to him with my mouth; his praise was on my tongue. 18 If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened; 19 but God has surely listened and has heard my prayer. 20 Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me!

Questions to Consider

  1. How can we posture ourselves in prayer?
  2. What is one reason God does not answer prayer?
  3. In respect to #2, does this mean that we have to be sinless for God to hear my prayers?
Notes
  1. One way we can posture ourselves in prayer is to have reverence for God, acknowledging that He is the one in control and we are subject to His good will and purpose. Secondly, we can posture ourselves with praise on our tongues.
  2. King David reveals that one hindrance in God’s willingness to hear our prayers is when we continue to walk in sin and do not repent of those sins. We can’t live a consistently sinful lifestyle and expect God to hear our prayers.
  3. In verse 18, David uses the phrase, “if I had cherished sin.”  Though it is true that we are sinners, even after we become Christians, David’s use of the word “cherished” indicates the kind of sin we hold on to and are unwilling to let go of.  God isn’t expecting us to be sinless, but He does call us to face our sins and confess them.

Evening Reflection

Reflect on some of the things you are currently praying for.  Ask yourself if you are having a right heart posture as you pray for these things?  Are you allowing God to speak to you and change you, or are you just praying for circumstances to change?  Take some time to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal your heart motive.