March 23, Monday

The AMI QT Devotional for today is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI, who has served as a staff at several AMI churches in the past.  He and his wife Mandie have four adorable children: Simon, Maggie, Jonathan and Abigail. 

 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Hoarders”

Matt 26:74b-75

“Immediately a rooster crowed. 75 Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.”

Seven days ago, when this COVID madness was just starting to ramp up, I made a comment to my wife.  “The worst part of this whole thing is that it really reveals the ugliness in humanity. Everyone starts hoarding stuff in quantities that they don’t need, and as a result, what happens? Everyone else is up the creek.  People are so selfish.”  

The following day, I get this urgent text from my wife, “My Instacart shopper found us toilet paper; I got us the last two 12-packs.  It’s on hold, can you go get it?” Knowing how my digestive system works, I knew that this is a vital find, so I immediately got the kids in the car and made the trek to a grocery store that is a solid 25 minutes from my house.  When I got there, the reality of the situation hit me. Along with TP, the store was also almost completely void of cleaning supplies, paper towels, and water. I seriously think I somehow got the last two packs of toilet paper in the county, and even more miraculously, I was able to claim my prized packages off the online ordering shelf. (I seriously have no idea how anyone didn’t just steal them.)

At this point, I know what I have in my hand; I’d might as well be holding gold bars, so I do my best to leave the store as inconspicuously as possible; head down, not making eye contact with anyone.  As I’m ¾ of the way to freedom, for whatever reason (perhaps the desire not to run into another person or the Holy Spirit’s prompting), I look up for one moment and happen to make eye contact with this elderly woman.  She looks at what I’m holding and asks, “Where did you get those?” Right away I feel God telling me to give her one of my packages. But what do I do? I start doing the math. There are six of us living in my household; we only have about a dozen rolls at home now, we’ll be out in a week; I need this.  So I tell this older woman that I ordered it online, knowing she likely has never heard of Instacart and even if she did, she has no shot of finding toilet paper, and I walk away.  

Here are some quick verses that hit me; to be honest, I could hit several pages of Bible passages detailing my sinfulness:

Matt 7:5: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Matt 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (obviously, I failed here.)

Matt 6:24-35: “Do not worry passage concerning the birds of the air and lilies of the field, and how God provides for them all.”  

Phil 2:4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  

Mark 12:31: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  

It’s been about a week since this incident, and every time I use the restroom, I’m haunted by my failings, perhaps like Peter hearing the rooster crow.  What may even be worse, I still haven’t needed to open up those packs of TP, knowing that there might be some older lady in my county who is doing God knows what when she uses the restroom.  All because I am just as selfish and sinful as everyone else. In the end, no matter how long I’ve been walking with the Lord or how I’ve served him, this incident has served as a wakeup call that I still have so much more to grow. 

Lord, have mercy on me, and thank you for forgiving me, again! 

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus for the reminder of my need for you and your grace!  Help me to overcome my selfishness and be a light for you in these times.  In your name, amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 56 


Lunch Break Study*

James 4:1-4: What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. 4 You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. 

Questions to Consider

  1. What causes fights and quarrels among believers? 
  2. What is another element that causes fights and quarrels within the body of Christ (vs. 4)?
  3. If you are finding yourself in a contentious situation, ask the Lord to reveal the wrong motives in YOUR heart that might be instigating this situation. Spend some time repenting

Notes

  1. Fights and quarrels come from a covetous heart filled with wrong motives. The bottom line: strife comes inevitability from our evil natures.
  2. Selfishness comes from friendship with the world, which is incompatible with friendship with God. Friendship, in antiquity, was usually taken very seriously as a lifelong pact between people with shared values and loyalties. The audience of James has the wrong object for a lover – the fallen world system with its set of values. 
  1. Personal response

Evening Reflection*

Reflect on the blood of Jesus Christ which allows us to meet God’s presence and worship Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I ask that you continue to change my heart and make it pure. Continue to sever my friendship with the world so that I will be used for Your purposes. Amen.  

* Prepared by Pastor Jason Sato (first posted on July 20, 2013).

March 22, Sunday

Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor Ryun Chang, was first posted on February 15, 2013.

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Slaying Our Doubled-Headed Enemy”

1 John 2:15-17

 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

No one saw coming what is presently happening around our globe: apparently unstoppable and certainly very contagious coronavirus, with people dying everywhere (so it seems).  If we ever had the problem of loving the world and fearing death (aren’t we all guilty), we are facing this double-headed monster up close and personal. So, what would falling headlong into the trap of loving the world and fearing death look like?

Perhaps no one ever feared death quite like Thomas Donaldson who was afflicted with brain cancer in 1990.  Hoping that science could one day make immortality possible, Donaldson, then 46, asked the California court judge to permit cryogenic specialists to freeze him, and then sever his frozen head to store it for the future.  He hoped that someday science would provide a cure for cancer, but for this plan to succeed, the doctors would also have to master the technique of brain transplantation. Only then could Donaldson’s head be thawed out and his brain implanted to another body.  At $35,000, freezing a head was a good deal cheaper than what it would cost to freeze an entire body for $100,000. “I am dying,” said the cancer patient, adding, “I might later be revived and continue to live.” Fortunately, he managed to beat the disease until finally succumbing to it in 2006.  

This man really tried to hang on to this world as long as he could, because for him there was no other world but this one, which he so desperately loved, since he never came to believe Jesus for eternal life.  Evidently, the more you love this world, the greater the fear of death will be. 

What’s more tragic is that there are many believers, mostly in the affluent West, who will do almost anything to prolong their stay here on earth.  And it’s not because they want to do God’s work; rather, to them (who make up the top 1% of incomer earners globally since $32,400 is all it takes), Western affluence is their heaven; it is what they love.  I wonder whether this is a case of “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:15b).  

May the present pandemic, which is turning our lives upside down, be used to slay the doubled-headed enemy of loving the world and fearing death by way of affirming our faith in Christ, who declared, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33)

Prayer: O God, let the present crisis that is exposing our love for the world and fear of death to drive us to Your Son Jesus Christ wherein we shall find true rest, peace and assurance. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 55

March 21, Saturday

Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey, was first posted on October 15, 2013. 

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Lord, Have Mercy on Me.”

Luke 18:13-14

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.’ 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

We live in a highly competitive culture (although it remains to be seen how the current pandemic—having sobering effects on everyone globally—may alter that, however slightly).  

For instance, we judge a winner of a hundred-meter race in terms of fractions of a second.  At the finals of 2012 Summer Olympic hundred-meter race, the difference between the first-place winner and the runner that came seventh was 0.35 seconds. This small difference made one person famous, while nobody even remembers the person who came in seventh.

The Pharisee, in this passage, becomes competitive with righteousness saying, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector.” He judges his own righteousness by his own human standards; but this is ridiculous when compared to God’s standard of righteousness.

Let’s think about the difference between God’s righteousness and our own righteousness. If God’s righteousness were to go up to the very top of the Empire State Building, our righteousness is on the ground floor. From heaven’s standard, comparing our righteousness with another person is like comparing our height with someone at the bottom of the Empire State Building; those few inches (which we think are so significant) are so meaningless in comparison to the great height of the building. 

Interestingly, the tax collector did not compare himself to someone lower than himself; instead, he saw himself in the light of God—from God’s standard. Therefore, the tax collector understood how much he was in need of the grace of God: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” The good news is that the tax collector went home justified before God.  God remembers the seventh-place runner.

As we suddenly find ourselves in a dramatic shift in how we live, work and even worship, let’s humble ourselves before God by realizing and then never forgetting how insignificant our righteousness or achievement is.  With that and 50 cents, you can maybe buy a cup of coffee. Instead, let’s all cry out to the Lord, saying, “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love” (Ps. 51:1).

Prayer: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love.”  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 53-54

March 20, Friday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional, prepared by then-staff of Kairos Christian Church in San Diego, was first posted on July 10, 2013.

 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“God of Justice”

Psalms 75:1-5

We praise you, God, we praise you, for your Name is near; people tell of your wonderful deeds. 2 You say, “I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge with equity. 3 When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm. 4 To the arrogant I say, ‘Boast no more,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horns. 5 Do not lift your horns against heaven; do not speak so defiantly.’”

How would you describe your best friend to another person?  Perhaps you would use words like thoughtful, kind, funny, or intelligent; but the odds are, “just” is not the word that will first come to mind.  While we tend to devalue the quality of justice over grace and mercy in others and in God, Psalm 75 puts God’s justice at the center.

The psalmist praises God for being…judge?  He knows His nearness through His steadfast…equity?  The psalmist witnesses God’s wonderful deeds of…judgment upon the wicked?  

In the West, we struggle with the idea of a just God.  Perhaps, it’s because we don’t suffer much. For victims of random violence in Over-the-Rhine, justice matters.  For believers in China suffering persecution, justice matters. For sex slaves in Southeast Asia, justice matters.  Some may be raising that question right now considering the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic that has already killed thousands of ordinary people. Where is God’s fairness in all this?  

But, be sure that our God will do right.  There will be a day when He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and He will destroy sin and death.  Praise God!

Meditate upon the goodness of God’s justice.  Ask God to give you a heart that loves and delights in the good and absolutely hating sin and evil.

Prayer: God, You are good in all Your ways and Your justice is magnificent.  I thank You that You are not indifferent to sin and death, but You hate them with all of Your being.  Thank You for defeating sin by the death and resurrection of Your Son. Lord, change my heart that I may no longer delight in evil but love what is good.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 52


Lunch Break Study 

Read James 2:1-4 (NIV): My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 

Questions to Consider

  1.  What strong warning does James give to the believers?
  2. How was the church displaying favoritism?
  3. How do the warnings that James gives against favoritism lead you towards a good, discerning spirit?

Notes

  1. Believers are NOT to show favoritism, especially because of financial differences. If the church accepted and responded to people based upon their economic differences, they would be showing favoritism. What is more, they would have become “judges with evil thoughts.” The church that claims the glorious Jesus Christ as its Lord would have become an unjust, partial judge!
  2. Imagine this scenario: James’ readers have come together for their church service. On this particular day, there are two visitors. The first is obviously a very rich man; James calls him a ‘gold-fingered’ man in gleaming apparel. The other man is nothing like this at all. He is dressed in shabby clothes- grimy and tattered. But the people of the church take scant notice of the second man because they are so enamored with the first thinking, “Just think of what he could do to advance the church if he were to join!” They make sure that he has the best seat in the house.  But as to the poor man, any place is good enough for him. It is embarrassing to them that he should decide to show up on the very same day as the rich visitor.
  3. There is certainly nothing wrong with a man being rich or with making him feel

welcomed in church, but the problem lies in treating him differently from the poor man. In so doing, the members of the church are acting as judges with “evil thoughts” (v. 4). They are acting on the basis of wrong standards.


Evening Reflection

Spend some time tonight thinking about those around you who still need to be saved. Pray for their salvation. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I admit that I categorize people according to wealth, talents, looks, etc. Help me to display the true character of God who accepts and loves all and is no respecter of man. Amen.

March 19, Thursday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is prepared by Pastor Ryun Chang who is the AMI Teaching Pastor.

 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Imagine COVID-19 as God’s Judgment . . . Nah, It Ain’t So!”

James 4:6b

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Talk has already begun about whether the COVID-19 pandemic is a judgement from God. It’s a straightforward question that elicits an either/or response. To the ISIS jihadists, the pandemic, or as they call it “the plague,” is “a torment sent by God on whomsoever He wills,” no doubt referring to the infidels. So, to these terrorists, COVID-19 is Allah’s judgment. 

Contrast that to what Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of a mega Baptist church in Dallas and an ardent supporter of President Trump, said about the pandemic. In a recent message entitled, “Is the Coronavirus a Judgement from God?” Jeffress said, “Many times illness is just a consequence of living in the fallen world.”  That has to be the understatement of the decade, seeing that that illness is changing life as we have known it.  Regardless, no, Jeffress doesn’t seem to believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is God’s judgment. I wonder what Jeffress would have said about the pandemic if Hillary were the President. Well, I wouldn’t put it past him to sound like what John Hagee, another conservative megachurch pastor from Texas, said about the 2014 Ebola epidemic: “God’s punishment for President Barack Obama’s Israel policy.” 

What do you think? Well, allow me to tinker with John Lennon’s famous song, “Imagine” in which the famed Beetle muses over the possibility of no heaven and no hell: “Imagine there is no heaven; it’s easy if you try.” So I say, “Imagine COVID-19 as God’s judgment; it’s easy if you don’t cherry-pick verses from the Bible.” And we don’t even need to rely on the Book of Revelation, in which one cataclysmic event after another decimates the entire world in the end-days (according to dispensationalism), to recognize two important things about God and His judgment.

First, God indeed can judge in the present, like right now. Consider what the apostle Paul says about all the persecutions and trials the Thessalonian Church was undergoing in the middle of the first century: “Therefore we ourselves boast about you in the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions that you are enduring. This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God (dikaias kriseōs tou theou), that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering” (2 Thess. 1:4-5 ESV). 

Here, God’s judgment, inflicted on the Thessalonian Church—of which it was said “the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians” (Acts 17:11a)—and carried out, not by virus, but the ones described as “those who trouble you” (2 Thess. 1:6), was to make this church more worthy of God’s kingdom. 

Second, it’s not the unbelieving world that gets God’s judgment (in contrast to the outlook of ISIS jihadists) first, but the church—as evidenced by the example of the Thessalonian Church. The apostle Peter declares, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:17 NIV 1984). So, Mr. Ryun Chang, what sin of the church do you have in mind? 

This past Monday, during a long layover at O’Hare, I put on my hoodie, laid my forehead down on a table, and with worship music softly playing through my headphones, prayed rather desperately. (Maybe being at an airport amidst the crisis had something to do with it.) While I was trying to grapple with what this pandemic was doing to our country, it suddenly dawned on me that, at least in the American context, this could be God’s judgment on the church for its . . . unmitigated ARROGANCE. 

And then I immediately recalled a short video clip that a pastor friend in Malaysia sent me recently. In it, a Caucasian pastor from the US shares a conversation he had with a group of 22 underground church leaders in China. They had travelled three days on a train to reach the site of their training, taking place in a small room with hard wooden floors, and going from 8 AM to 5 PM for several days. Concerned about his own safety, when the speaker asked, “If we get caught, what will happen to me?” they answered, “You will get deported in 24 hours and we will go to prison for 3 years.” Eighteen of them already had spent time in prison for their faith. 

At the conclusion of the training, the pastor asked the underground leaders, “How can I pray for you before I leave for America?” In response, they said, “You guys can gather like this whenever you want to in America, but we can’t; so, could you pray that one day we can be just like you?” The speaker “looked at them and said, ‘I will not do that’” to which the Chinese leaders questioned, “But why?” And this is how the US pastor responded:

“You guys rode on the train for 13 hours to get here; in my country if you get to drive more than an hour, people don’t come. You sat on a wooden floor for 3 days; in my country, if people have to sit more than 40 minutes, they leave. You sat here not only for 3 days on a hard-wooden floor, but you did it without air-conditioning; in my country, if it’s not padded pews and air conditioning, people often don’t come back. And in my country, we have on average 2 Bibles per family, but we don’t read any of them. You hardly have any Bibles and you memorize it from pieces of paper. I will not pray that you become like us, but I will pray that we become just like you.” 

The video clip came with no date, but I am willing to bet that it happened years ago, for many Chinese churches now look more like churches in the West; perhaps with the rapid rise of persecution against churches in China, many Chinese believers may get the opportunity to worship God with all of their hearts again. But what about us evangelicals in America who feel so “in” with mainstream culture because of our concert-like worship services (singing songs about God than to Him), our dedication to social justice (instead of justice of God obtained solely through faith in Christ) or our total disdain for Donald Trump or a total devotion to him? Let’s admit it: We are full of ourselves!

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack on America, several conservative pastors saw this event as God’s judgment against America for embracing what amounts to moral liberalism. For instance, the aforementioned Jeffress saw the unprecedented attack as “God’s judgment upon America for the sins of abortion.” That well may have been the case, but their take on the 9/11 attack was out of order: before pointing a finger at others, the believers—recognizing that God cleans out His house first before dealing with the filth of the world—should “humble themselves and pray and seek [God’s] face and turn from their wicked ways” (2 Chron. 7:14a). 

As I was wrapping up my prayer, I heard another inner voice that seemed to say: “Hey Ryun (of whom someone attributed with “a PhD in PowerPoint”), stop hiding your lack of spirituality behind your PowerPoint slides.” Arrogance has been in my heart for a while, and I believe this conversation with the Lord has just begun.

Prayer: Lord, above all else, get us to REPENT amid the COVID-19 pandemic.  Really. In Jesus’ name, amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 51


Lunch Break Study*

Read Jeremiah 31:31-34: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Questions to Consider

  1. How is the New Covenant different from the Old Covenant?
  2. According to v. 32, what was deficient in the Old Covenant?
  3. How does God describe Himself to His people in the Old and New Covenants?

Notes

  1. In the New Covenant, the Lord would write the law on the hearts of His people, not just in the Book of the Law.  Furthermore, neighbor and brother would not need to be exhorted to “Know the Lord,” for all shall know Him, from the least to the greatest.
  2. Since the Old Covenant could be broken by the people, its continual establishment depended on whether or not men obeyed.  Given the sinful nature of the people, it was doomed to be insufficient from the beginning.
  3. “Husband” (v. 32) and “their God” (v. 34). 

Evening Reflection*

Reflect upon your day.  What evidence is there that God has given you a new heart?  In what area do you still need the transforming work of God?  Invite the Holy Spirit to continue the work of transforming your heart.

*Prepared by Pastor Jason Sato (first posted on December 8, 2013).

March 18, Wednesday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on February 13, 2013, is prepared by Pastor Ryun Chang who is the AMI Teaching Pastor.

 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“What Lesson Are You Learning from the Present Crisis?”

Psalm 18:4-6

The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. 5 The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. 6 In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.

How do you think the coronavirus pandemic, which will eventually pass—meaning the arenas and churches will once again be filled with sports fans and worshipers, respectively—is going to affect your outlook in life for the long haul?  How about this from 1 Timothy 6:17b: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God.”  Underscore the part about the uncertainty of wealth—in fact, life itself!  Who would have thought even a couple of weeks that our lives were going to be disrupted to the degree that it has?  

Many years ago, as I was looking at some old photos, I was rudely awakened to the vicissitudes of life. It was a photo taken in 1983 that showed four happy young singles—my older brother, younger sister, myself and a good friend—three of whom had no idea that “the cords of the grave” would coil around their future spouses: two would die before turning 35 and the other at 43, all leaving behind small children.  

As we age, we quickly realize how fragile life can be. Many turn to drugs, alcohol or other kinds of pleasures, to deal with “the torrents of destruction that overwhelm”; but the Psalmist exhorts us to call out to God for help, because only in Him will we find the grace to bear the unbearable. My sister wrote in the eulogy of her husband (2005): “The anger I thought I would have if God took my husband from me was no longer there because God filled my heart with this incredible peace that passes beyond any understanding and I was so grateful.”  

I suppose the present health crisis isn’t exactly a threat to young people, particularly the millennials, since the coronavirus seemingly doesn’t affect them as much.  Good for you but take in the lesson anyway. What lesson?  Everyone and everything not named God is “so uncertain”; therefore, lean on the everlasting God of the Bible and value each day as a gift from the Lord; use it for good—“be rich in good deeds” (1 Tim. 6:18).  And for some young people, that means staying home instead of going about towns.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I realize how fragile life can be and that I should not take another day for granted!  Inasmuch as life can be tough, Your grace is more than sufficient to carry me through. God, some-times I get happy for all the wrong reasons; may I find my joy and contentment only in Your Son Jesus Christ.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 50


Lunch Break Study

Read 2 Corinthians 1:8-11: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers,[b] of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Before finding out how this affected Paul, discover what he meant by the “hardships we suffered” (2 Cor. 11:23-8)?
  2. So, how did these distressful moments affect Paul’s thinking on why God would allow them2 (2 Cor. 1:8-9)?
  3. Ultimately, how did these difficult and distressful moments affect Paul’s faith3 (2 Cor. 1:10-11)?  

Notes

  1. We can read about the details of these beatings that Paul suffered in Acts. In Lystra, “they stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead” (14:19); in Philippi, “stripped and beaten,” Paul was “severely flogged” and was “thrown into prison” (16:23); in Jerusalem, “seizing Paul, they dragged him . . . [and] were trying to kill him.”
  2. So, why would God allow these difficult moments that made Paul “despair even of life,” and to feel “the sentence of death?”  At some point, he realized that “this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.” Suffice it to say, our reliance on God alone is a very important matter to Him.
  3. First, it boosted Paul’s confidence in the LORD; second, it enabled him to be hopeful even in the darkest moments; third, he realized the importance of intercessory prayer offered on our behalf. These are valuable and important lessons that will surely help us to better navigate life; but if we rely on other things during our trying moments, we won’t learn them. 

Evening Reflection

Are you going through a difficult moment, at home, work or even church?  How is that situation affecting you? What do you feel? How was your day itself?  Did you experience any hardship or some distress from work or family? Did you experience God through it? Reflect on God’s promise in 1 Pet. 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”  Quietly meditate on this.

March 17, Tuesday

Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Barry Kang of Symphony Church in Boston, was originally posted on March 12, 2014.  

 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Abiding in Him Amid Darkness”

1 John 2:24-29 (ESV)

Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life. 26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. 28 And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

One of the ways that God motivated me to plant a campus-focused church in Boston was becoming aware of the statistics that more Christians fall away from faith during their college years, than any other time of life.  This statistics may or may not be true today, but a fall from faith is tragic, whenever it may happen! Our faith is often under attack whether by circumstances, temptations, persecutions or even false teachings. The Apostle John tells us that he writes with this concern in mind: “I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.” (v.27).  So how can we maintain and grow our faith? Should we go to seminary and accumulate more knowledge? Serve more? Surround ourselves with Christians who can encourage us? Or go on a mission trip? John’s advice might surprise us.

His primary advice for those of us fighting for our faith (which includes all of us to a varying degree) is this: that we abide in what we already know!  The word “abide” is the same word that Jesus uses in John 15:4 when he says, “Abide in me.” We are to abide (remain or dwell) in Jesus and the great truths that we have been aware of from the start of our Christian experience.  Our faith will be sustained, not by new knowledge, new experiences or new ways to think about God and the world; but by continually and persistently dwelling and remaining in Jesus and the truth that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, crucified but resurrected so that we might also live!  

One of my professors once told me, “Don’t forget in the dark that that which you heard in the light.”  This is great advice amid the corona virus pandemic—with all the fears and uncertainties it has brought—that has  radically changed the life as we have known (for the time being). So, how will you remain in the light during this dark moment?  May God have mercy on all of us; may we abide in Him with all of our hearts.

Prayer: Father, I want to abide in Jesus.  There are many forces that pull me away.  Some of them are very tempting to follow, but help me to persist in remaining in Jesus.  Thank you for promising that you won’t let me go. Help me to grow, not just in new knowledge, but deeper in the knowledge that I already have.  In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 49


Lunch Break Study  

Read Luke 18:1-8: And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. 2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? zWill he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Questions to Consider

  1. Why does Jesus tell this parable (v.1)?  What is Jesus looking for when He returns (v.8)?
  2. Is God being compared or contrasted with this judge?
  3. What does the parable teach us about prayer?
  4. How does this passage give us deeper insight to 1 John 2:24-28 (the morning devotion)?

Notes

  1. Jesus tells this parable in order that we would always pray and (thereby) not lose heart.  In this context, it appears that on his return, Jesus will be looking for people who are praying (i.e. faith on earth).
  2. It would be a mistake to think that this judge is like God (i.e. a simile); rather, Jesus is contrasting the judge’s behavior to God’s behavior.  If the judge, who is unlike God, hears and answers the woman’s call for justice, how much more will God hear and answer us?
  3. Persistence is important in prayer:  God hears those who “cry to him day and night.”
  4. A crucial aspect of abiding in Jesus is to spend time praying.  Prayer indicates and develops trust in God and dependence upon Him.  If we want to abide in Jesus, then we need to spend time praying!

Evening Reflection

Spend some time praying and reflecting upon the truths of Jesus you already know.  Journal and pray over these truths!