September 8, Tuesday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, prepared by Pastor Jason Sato who is currently serving in Japan as a missionary, is an updated version of his blog first posted on April 28, 2014. Jason is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Doing Grace Better”

Galatians 6:1-5 (ESV) 

“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. [2] Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. [3] For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. [4] But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. [5] For each will have to bear his own load.

If you ever happen to see me struggling to carry a heavy piece of furniture, please do NOT walk alongside me and critique my lifting posture.  Help me!

After detailing the fruit of the Spirit (the characteristics of a spiritual person), the apostle Paul encourages the Galatian Church to “bear one another’s burdens” (v. 2). Burdens can come in the form of worries, hardships, or even conflicts.  But here, Paul is referring to the burden of “transgression,” or the burden of sin (v. 1). The burden of sin includes guilt, shame, alienation from others, and ultimately estrangement from God. God calls us to set our brothers and sisters free from such burdens.

Do we love our brothers and sisters enough to confront areas of sin in their lives? If we do, do we remind them of the grace of God and offer to strive alongside them or just berate them? 

More often than we’d like to admit, our brother’s sin becomes an opportunity for us to love ourselves rather than love him. We begin to compare and think we are something (v. 3). We boast about ourselves in light of our brother, conveniently forgetting how we compare to the perfect holiness of God (v. 4). 

But such boasting will be cut short when we stand before the judgment seat of God (v. 5). Before God, there is only one thing we can boast in: the perfect righteousness of Christ. And so, knowing the wickedness and deceitfulness of our own hearts, we can come to our brother with a spirit of gentleness. Rather than demanding he try harder or do better, we can point him to the Savior who died for sinners.  

And as we offer free and full reconciliation purchased by the blood of Christ, we are blessed to remember that that same grace and forgiveness is offered to us as well.  Philip Yancey writes in his What’s So Amazing About Grace? (1997), “The world can do anything the church can do except one thing: it cannot show grace. In my opinion, Christians are not doing a very good job of dispensing grace to the world.”  Let’s do grace better today.   

Prayer: Father, I thank You for my brothers and sisters. I am blessed to be a part of this family. Lord, give me supernatural love that reaches out to those who are trapped in sin. May I not rejoice in the failures of others, but plead for Your grace to be poured out on them and on myself. You alone can save. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Chronicles 2


Lunch Break Study  

Read Matthew 23:4 & 11:28-30 (ESV): “[The scribes and Pharisees] tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger . . . [28] Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. [29] Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. [30] For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Contrast the implied invitation of the scribes and Pharisees with that of Jesus in 11:28.
  2. Contrast the result of the Pharisee’s ministry with that of Jesus’ ministry.
  3. Contrast what the Pharisees were willing to do for their disciples with what Jesus has done for His.

Notes

  1. The scribes and Pharisees invite their hearers to follow rules and carry heavy burdens. While Jesus is concerned about ethics, He invites us to Himself. Jesus invites us to have a personal relationship with Him.
  2. The Pharisees’ ministry results in burdensome weariness. The ministry of Jesus results in rest for our souls.
  3. The Pharisees were unwilling to help their disciples with their finger. Their disciples were left to deal with their burdens alone. Christ died for His disciples. His perfect life, death, and resurrection accomplished everything we need for complete redemption and restoration to the Father.

Evening Reflection

Reflect on your day. What opportunities were you given to encourage a brother or sister with the Gospel? How were you tempted to favorably compare yourself to others? Invite the Lord to humble you and cause you to boast only in Christ.

September 7, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on March 25, 2013.  Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Enamored by the Beauty, not the Functionality, of the Lord”

Psalm 27:4, 7-8 (ESV)

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.  7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! 8 You have said, “Seek my face.”  My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” 

King David begins this psalm by talking about how God functions in his life, a God who would defend, protect, and fight for him, but he quickly realizes that there is something more important than the functional role of God in his life.  He sees that above and beyond this, the one thing that is most important is to see the beauty of God.  

Beauty is what captures the human heart and stirs it.  Beauty gives birth to our passions and fulfills our longings.  Beauty is what awakens the human spirit and separates us from the animals.   

Now, animals in the wild have been known to make simple tools so that they can secure food and scare off predators.  While they can create things for a functional purpose, only humans pursue beauty for the sake of beauty.  Appreciating what God does is important but being captivated by His beauty is far more vital.  

We know that the Gospel is the pinnacle of what God has done for us—that He gave His only Son as atonement for our sin and that faith in him leads to eternal life.  But if our understanding of the gospel stops there, while we might live our lives in gratitude, we are unlikely to live our lives out of love.  The gospel is not only an account of what God has done for us but it is also a window to who God is.  

Moreover, as we look through the gospel, we see a God whose beauty is beyond description.  We see the perfect symphony of love and justice, of humility and might, of mercy and holiness.  Only when this beauty of God is captured in our hearts can we truly fall in love with Him.

This morning, reflect on the beauty of God.    Make this psalm your prayer, that you may behold the beauty of God and fall deeper in love with Him.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, it is so easy to forget how beautiful You are.  I pray that as I experience the ordinary things of life that I would be mindful of the extraordinary God who made all things possible.  Help me to fall deeper and deeper in love with You, counting one day in Your presence as better than a thousand apart from You. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Chronicles 1


Lunch Break Study 

Read John 8:12 (ESV): Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Questions to Consider

  1. At what event in the Jewish religious calendar did Jesus speak these words?  (John 7:2)
  2. What did this event celebrate and bring remembrance of? (Exodus 40:36-38)
  3. What is Jesus referring to when He calls himself the “light of the world”?  

Notes

  1. Jesus spoke these words at the Feast of Booths, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles.     
  2. The Feast of Tabernacles was a celebration of God leading the people of Israel through the desert for 40 years.  If you have watched the Ten Commandments or the Prince of Egypt, you will recall that God guided the nation of Israel using a cloud by day to protect them from the desert heat and then the cloud would be illuminated at night by fire so that they could make their way through the darkness. 
  3. When Jesus refers to himself as the “Light”, it has a very narrow range of meaning.  He isn’t simply saying, “I am the source of enlightenment that will guide you through life like Buddha or a New Age guru.”  He is literally saying, “I am the shekinah glory of God,” which is the dwelling of God’s presence in a specific location that makes it perceptible to the human senses.  During the Feast of Tabernacles, as the people gathered each evening, the priest would light the candelabras for two reasons: first, as remembrance of how God’s glory led them through the darkness; second, as an expression of longing for the visible presence of God to fill the temple again. 

St. Irenaeus, a leading theologian in the early church, is famous for stating that, “The glory of God is a man fully alive.”  I would take that one-step further and say that the glory of God is what causes man to be fully alive.  Without the light of God’s glory shining into the darkness of our hearts, there is no chance for true spiritual life.  


Evening Reflection

As you start the week, think of ways to center your daily routine around the gospel.  Write down how God has reminded you of His sacrificial love.   

September 6, Sunday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, was first posted on March 2, 2014.  He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Relationship Between Theology and Ethics”

1 John 2:6

“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”

hussain-badshah-7nrrf9581Qg-unsplashEven now, one of the most important questions we wrestle within the Church is how our ethics (how we live our life) interacts with our theology (what we believe).  As many already know, the apostle John’s primary message was “love one another” (Jn. 13:35). But what does it mean if we don’t actually love one another?  Since we are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8), does that imply that loving others is not required in order to be saved?  Is doing what God commands necessary for salvation?

The first letter of John was likely written to the church in Ephesus, a church with an outstanding pedigree.  Planted by the apostle Paul, pastored by Timothy and later by the apostle John, the church had a solid foundation of pastoral and theological leadership.  Yet, as Jesus had prophesied (Matt. 7), false teachers had begun to influence the church (Acts 20:29-31); and much of their teachings had to do with this interplay between theology and ethics.

In time, from their false teachings would arise a non-Christ centered system of philosophy known as “Gnosticism,” which taught that only those who had received the secret knowledge (i.e., gnosis) would become enlightened and saved.  An essential component to Gnosticism was dualism, which taught that the soul was good while flesh was evil.  Interestingly, this led to two vastly different ethical applications.  Some dualists preached a severe form of asceticism (i.e., a strict lifestyle that avoids physical pleasure) under the premise that wicked flesh needed to be disciplined.  Many others promoted licentiousness under the pretext that since the soul will be saved in the end, what was done in the flesh didn’t matter.

In contrast, the gospel writers taught that God did the work of salvation.  We play no role in obtaining our salvation because God’s redemptive work is affected neither by our righteousness nor our lack of it; we simply receive this grace through faith. Knowledge (knowing what Jesus did) has a role, but salvation is more than intellectually assenting to that knowledge.  For John, faith cannot be separated from one’s ethics, any more than Christ’s humanity can be separated from his divinity.  If you believe in Jesus, then you would want to live like him and you can, since the Spirit (a.k.a., the helper) lives in us.  Yes, “whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”

Evidently, the errors of Gnosticism still affect many of us today.  How?  We are inclined to listen to the voices that preach knowledge (resulting in accumulating information) over faith.  Some emphasize grace so much that all efforts toward holiness are dismissed.  For others, imbalanced focus on faithfulness has turned good works into a means to justify ourselves and to judge others.  As we read through 1 John, let us ask that God would help us to find the radical middle of grace and faith.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus!  Now, despite our imperfections, we can have fellowship with You and even fellowship with other imperfect people.  Help me to become a person who proclaims Christ inside and outside the Church, that our joy would become complete!  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Obadiah 1

September 5, Saturday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), is an updated version of his blog first posted on March 24, 2013.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Amazing ‘Faith’ of Atheists”

Hebrews 11:6b

 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

caleb-woods-tdhiUBgJCpg-unsplashMany years ago, I met a university professor at his home— quite drunken at the time— at the urge of his student who attended my church; she was concerned about his mental health.  Distraught by loneliness (living alone after the divorce) and backstabbing at work, he was quite despondent.   

As we spoke, I quickly learned that his father was a pastor of the same denomination where I received my ordination and that he grew up adhering to the Christian faith.   Somewhere along the way however, this doctor of music lost faith in the Bible because he was convinced that science had disproved it as nothing more than myth.  For instance, he insisted the Big Bang proved that the creation story was not true.  In response, I asked him, “Where did the very ‘stuff’ (e.g., ‘singularity’, ‘infinite density’ or ‘physical laws’) within which the implosion of Big Bang occurred come from?  How did inorganic matters suddenly become self-replicating molecules?”  The professor responded, “That’s one problem that science hasn’t solved.”  I retorted, “That’s one problem it will never resolve.”  Then he muttered to himself, “But we all have to be honest with ourselves and to our intellect even though what we believe may lead to despair.   I must believe it because it is the truth.”  The Bible says the truth will set you free (Jn. 8:32) but the “truth” of Nietzsche and this professor led to insanity and despondency.

We humans are created in such a way that without hope and purpose, life loses its meaning. The Christian belief that the infinite-personal God individually made us imbues such hope and purpose in us!   Christians and atheists/scientific rationalists do have one thing in common: faith in something to begin their inquiry.   

In the movie Beautiful Mind, John Nash, the brilliant mathematician who won the Nobel prize in economy, is about to propose to his girl friend Alicia.   Presumably, because of Nash’s scientific orientation, he asks her for some evidence or proof for love.  Therefore, she asks him, “How big is the universe,” to which Nash answers, “Infinite.”  Then, when Alicia asks him, “How do you know that,” Nash confidently responds, “Because all the verifiable data indicate it.”  However, when Alicia asks, “Have you seen it with your own eyes,” Nash, after a brief pause, admits, “No, I simply believe it.”   

Like Nash in the movie, Christians readily admit that their starting point is faith, in God’s existence, which is backed by plausible evidence (Ps. 19:1-4).  What atheists do not want to admit is that statements such as, “God does not exist” and “the universe has no beginning,” are founded upon faith as well!  Given those choices, I personally will choose the one that gives me hope and purpose instead of the other choice that guarantees misery and despondency.   Celebrate this knowledge today; worship the Lord with more passion; be more caring of others in his honor.    

Prayer: Father in Heaven, thank You for the gift of faith.  Thank You that You have enabled me to believe that which the so-called “smart” people of the world find it beneath their intellect.  “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children” (Matt. 11:25). Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Haggai 1-2

September 4, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Cami King who serves as associate pastor at Remnant Church in Manhattan, was first posted on September 4, 2014.  Cami is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.).  She was recently licensed by AMI.  Congratulations.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Serving the True Master”

Galatians 1:10

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

gabriel-gheorghe-l3MFXepIGVs-unsplashJesus once taught that a man cannot serve two masters. While he was referring to God and money, the principle is relevant here as well. Paul was facing great opposition from false teachers who taught things contrary to what Paul had taught, spreading their message by discrediting Paul. Because Paul’s gospel message did not require Gentiles to convert to Judaism (a religion enmeshed in ethnic identity), only to believe in the person and work of Christ (a spiritual identity), some Jewish Christians charged him with people-pleasing (that is, telling the Gentiles only what they wanted to hear to be more popular among them).

But Paul remained true to the message he had been given, regardless of who received or rejected him. He was concerned neither with pleasing the Gentiles (gaining popularity through a watered-down message), nor with pleasing the Jews (gaining popularity through a strict/works-based message). His only concern was pleasing God (honoring the message that Christ had given him).

People-pleasing is a condition common to man – to some of us more than others. All of us, at some point or another, find ourselves longing for the approval of those around us and wanting the affirmation of the masses. We filter our words and actions, package and repackage ourselves to be more palatable and to feel accepted. Furthermore, even for those among us who are less concerned with what others think, we are all very much concerned with pleasing ourselves.

But we cannot serve two masters. We cannot serve both God and the people around us. We cannot serve both God and ourselves.  If we allow ourselves to be ruled by the opinions of others, that is the master we serve. If we allow ourselves to be ruled by our own thoughts and desires, then we are our own masters.

As believers, we are called to serve the Lord only, but that isn’t always easy. Sometimes we will be rejected by others. Sometimes we will have to go against our own desires. But in the end we know that God is a loving master and serving Him will lead us into freedom and abundant life.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please free me from my tendency toward people-pleasing and self-gratification. Make me aware of the other masters in my life today. Help me to serve You even when it is difficult. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 29


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 6:19-24 “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. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the nature of earthly and heavenly treasures?
  2. Why is it so important that we reign in our desires and align them with the things of God (vs. 22-23)?
  3. Why does Jesus say it’s impossible to serve two masters?

Notes

  1. Earthly treasure is fleeting; it is susceptible to theft and decay. Heavenly treasure is enduring; it cannot be stolen nor will it decay.
  2. What we desire affects our whole being. Therefore, if we desire the things of this world, we will pursue and achieve just that (and that’s what will fill us). But if we desire the things of God, we will pursue and receive (and be filled with) those things instead.
  3. In every action we choose an allegiance. If it is to the one master (ourselves/other people/success/riches/etc.), then in that action, we’ve failed to serve the other master, namely God. But if we choose to serve God, we are set free from all those other masters (and are truly free!).

Evening Reflection

What are some of the other masters in your life? Who are the people you long to please, whose approval and affirmation you strive to achieve? Spend some time submitting those areas to God. Ask Him to show you practical ways you can serve Him instead.

September 3, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI, was first posted on December 17, 2013.  A graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Cairn University (MA), Yohan served as a staff at several AMI churches in the past.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Active Faith and Passive Faith”

Psalm 130:1-8

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, therefore you are feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins. 

illiya-vjestica-yGJyLAqF8gY-unsplashOver the years, I have found that there are two kinds of faith. The first is an active faith that responds obediently to the Lord’s commands.  Examples of people who displayed this kind of faith include Abraham, who left his home for an unknown Promised Land; Moses, who confronted Pharaoh; and Paul, who sailed the known world to share about Christ.

Closer to our time, missionaries like Hudson Taylor, Jim Elliot, and several AMI missionaries who have left promising careers to start a new in Asia come to mind.  What binds them is their willingness to act decisively upon hearing God’s calling.  We admire people who display this kind of faith and even want to be like them as they represent the action heroes of Christianity.

The other kind of faith, which I think is harder to develop, is a more “passive faith” that requires waiting and trusting in the Lord through desperate and lonesome circumstances.  Here, we are called to surrender control.  In contrast, while active faith may require us to make drastic and oftentimes uncomfortable decisions, at least we feel like we have the power to do something about our circumstances.

However, this trusting faith demands that we endure patiently.  Ironically, before God called Moses to confront Pharaoh, he endured 40 years of waiting in the desert.  Although Moses was an eloquent man in the past, after 40 years, he said to God, “I am slow of speech and tongue” (Ex. 4:10b), and that’s when God used him.  Perhaps, the trusting faith must precede the active or action faith.

What are you waiting for?  A new career?  Marriage?  Having children?  Your parents to come to faith?   A spiritual breakthrough?  Do you feel helpless in this pursuit?  Do you sense that God is telling you to wait on Him?  This Psalm gives us insight in what it means to wait and trust in the Lord.  Whatever that was going on in the Psalmist’s life, he felt that he was in the “depths” (130:1).

His commitment to wait on the Lord and hope in His Word (130:5-6) serves to guide us and encourage us as we wait on a good God.  Just don’t assume that a pot of gold will be found at the end of your wait; instead, long for a heart ready to love, worship, and serve God.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, how often have I treated You as the means to my own end!  I need to just want You.  I don’t need to wait because You are always here because You said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Thank You.  Amen!

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 28


Lunch Break Study

Read John 15:1-7: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.  5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does the Father do for our spiritual development?
  2. What do we do?
  3. What is Christ’s role?
  4. What do you think verse 7 means, particularly the later part, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

Notes

  1. The Father prunes the good branches, making sure that they have optimal conditions to bear fruit.  Even in distressing times, do you believe that these conditions are the optimal circumstances, orchestrated by the Father that will help you grow?
  2. Our responsibility is to “remain in” the vine (Christ).  Our job as branches is to cling on to the vine, to seek the Lord in earnest prayer, be in His presence, and walk in obedience.
  3. Christ is the vine, the channel by which we receive nutrients to bear fruit.  Fruit is not made instantly; it gradually grows; but during different seasons, it may grow faster.  So it is with us when we stay attached to Christ.  As he nurtures us, we bear fruit.
  4. I think Christ is confident that those who are truly connected to him will not “ask with wrong motives, that [they] may spend what [they] get on [their] pleasures” (James 4:3b). Instead, the Lord is confident that they will genuinely ask for important things that are near and dear to the heart of the Vine and Gardener (cf. 1 Jn. 5:14-5).

Evening Reflection

This morning, we looked at the importance of waiting on the Lord; ultimately, where we want to go is to a place of surrender and trust.  Did you seek to remain in Christ today?  Is there something you feel you are waiting on?  Did you surrender it to Christ?

September 2, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Charles Choe who leads Tapestry Church in Los Angeles, was first posted on June 23, 2014.  Charles is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Not Just in Need but Striving to be Needed”

1 Timothy 5:5-10

The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. 8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 9 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.

jasmin-chew-ndGDupzzBdY-unsplashOne of the constant challenges of doing ministry in an urban setting is discerning those who genuinely have a need, from those who are just lazy and are trying to take advantage of the church. Our church leadership had a policy of not handing out money, especially to strangers who would ask for assistance, but we would invariably offer to buy groceries; some people gladly take them, while others suddenly no longer feel very hungry.

Even in the Christian community, there will always be those who seek help from the church even though they may not truly be in need. So Paul is calling Timothy to be wise in safeguarding the community funds lest swindlers take away resources from those who truly have nothing. Paul, therefore, says widows are to be characterized by loneliness and prayer; those who constantly make heartfelt pleas for rescue—and it is these widows whom the believing community must support.

But the widow is not to just receive. She is to live a godly life, not being self-indulgent (1 Tim. 5:6), but a woman who devotes herself to prayer and service. She is to have a “reputation for good works, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, caring for the afflicted, and devoting herself to every good work” (1 Tim 5:10).

A person in need should strive to be needed: That is what we are called to be as believers. You may go through a season of need, but the aim is to become a person who is needed in the body of Christ. We should never remain just needy but should aspire to grow into a position of helping others. In fact, take a moment and ask yourself, does anyone need me? Would the body of Christ suffer if I weren’t there? May you be a person not just in need, but a person who is needed.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for meeting all my needs. Help me to be a person who can be a blessing to others. Help me to serve in such a way that I would be missed should I happen to miss a church meeting or service. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 27


Lunch Break Study

Read Proverbs 11:25-31: Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered. 26 The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it. 27 Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor, but evil comes to him who searches for it. 28 Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. 29 Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart. 30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise. 31 If the righteous is repaid on earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner!

Questions

  1. What is the promise of those who serve others?
  2. According to verse 27, what naturally happens when we go about pursuing good?
  3. Can you truly agree with the statement that seeking riches for its own sake brings troubles to his or her own household (v.29)? How ambitious are you when it comes to money? How important is it to you?

Notes

  1. That he himself will be enriched, watered, satisfied, and fulfilled.
  2. When we pursue doing good, we find ourselves ultimately receiving favor of God and others.
  3. There is nothing wrong with working hard and becoming wealthy. But seeking wealth for its own sake will ultimately wreak havoc to one’s life.

Evening Reflection

Who did you help today? Was there a person who had a genuine need that God brought into your life today?

September 1, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Matt Ro who formerly pastored Journey Church in Atlanta, was originally posted on May 21, 2013.  Matt is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BS) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning 

“God Alone”

Psalm 62:1-4; 11-12 (ESV)

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. 2 He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken. 3 How long will all of you attack a man to batter him, like a leaning wall, a tottering fence? 4 They only plan to thrust him down from his high position. They take pleasure in falsehood. They bless with their mouths, but inwardly they curse. Selah . . . 11 Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God, 12 and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work.

ivan-bandura-QQAjgp2bM-U-unsplashDo you ever feel like an endangered species?  Like no one else is around or can understand you?  When we are discouraged, depressed, or threatened, we sometimes feel that we too are one of the endangered species and that we are soon going to be wiped out or forgotten.

That is how David feels in this Psalm.  He is surrounded by enemies and they are trying to push him over and eviscerate him. Yet, in spite of the hostility, David is not worried about them but rather places his trust in God.  In vv. 1-4, it is hard to see in the English text, but three times the Hebrew word alone” or “only” is mentioned.  David is emphasizing that God is his only object of faith and trust.  That is why he is so confident.  Alexander Maclaren, a commentator on the psalms, captures this by saying, “That one word [only] is the record of conflict and the trophy of the psalmist’s victory.”  Do we find our trust and victory only in God or do we trust in other things, including ourselves?

The last two verses (11-12) teach us two things about God: first, that God is strong; and second, that God is loving.  V. 11 tells us that God was continuingly revealing Himself to David.  God was revealing that He is strong, that is, sovereign over history, including the events in David’s life.  Also, that God is loving (v. 12) even in these apparently contradictory things.  The word David uses is hesed, which refers to God’s faithful covenants with his people.  God is a covenant-keeping God.

As we reflect on God’s power, love, and “only-ness”, we acknowledge that rest can be found in God as He is the one able to protect us.   He is more than able; He is our fortress.

Prayer:  Father, only You can uphold me with Your powerful hand and perfect steadfast love.  Help me not to fear, knowing that You are the God who covers me with the shadow of Your wings.  You are the God who rules the universe, holds the devil in secret chains, and rules over the wicked.  Thank You, Father, that You hear me and that You delight in Your children.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 26


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 4:22-32 (ESV): “To put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. 25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. 28 Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Questions to Consider

  1. What do you think it means to “put off your old self”?
  2. The phrase “deceitful desires” literally means “deceitful lusts.”  What does Paul’s strong use of the word “desire/lust” reveal to us about the corruption of life that comes from these wrong attitudes?
  3. What do you think it means to “put on the new self”?
  4. Read vv. 25-32.  Are there any of these ways of our old self that we need to recognize and reject?  Identify some areas of your old self that need to come under the submission of the Holy Spirit.

Notes

  1. Putting off the old and putting on the new begins with the recognition that even as Christians, there is a remnant of the old life within us.  Paul teaches us that we recognize and reject these false assumptions and patterns within us that come from the life before we met Christ.  It is not merely deeds, but he talks about outlooks and attitudes.  These things must be rejected.  The idea is similar to taking off old, dirty clothes and putting on new, clean clothes.  We must reject the assumptions that have caused us trouble – putting them off.
  2. The word “lust” is generally understood today as one with sexual connotations.  But this word is much broader than that.  It means any urge or basic drive that is controlling us.  Deceitful desires are constantly coming at us as we react to various situations.
  3. Putting on the new life requires being made new in the attitude of our minds.  When we believe in Jesus and receive Him as our Lord and Savior, we are renewed in the attitude of our minds.  The new self is in the likeness of God; it is the life of God; the image of Jesus; His life lived in us.  We can “put on” that attitude because Christ lives in us.
  4. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Prayer for the evening: Father, help me to understand and put into practice this great principle of putting off the old self and putting on the new.  Thank You that I am a new creation and the life of Christ is now in me.  Amen.

August 31, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, prepared by Pastor Jason Sato who is currently serving in Japan as a missionary, is an updated version of his blog first posted on December 16, 2013. Jason is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“A Sudden Realization That Mutes Our Egoism”

Psalm 130:1-5

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! 2 O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! 3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? 4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. 5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;

debby-hudson-NiQjjEnfS-c-unsplashHave you ever pleaded desperately with the Lord?   That’s what the Psalmist does here. His prayer, therefore, is neither muted nor indifferent, for, he prays out of the depths of his heart.

In the midst of this prayer, the Psalmist is startled by something he suddenly realizes: None could stand before a Holy God if He counted iniquities.  In light of that, his trust and hope in the Lord cannot have anything to do with his own righteousness or past achievements.  The Psalmist knows that his past earns him nothing but further affliction and condemnation.

This is all the more reason he does not come with demands, as one entitled to the favor of God.  Instead, the Psalmist pleads for mercy, with great hope and expectation, because he has come to know God of steadfast love, a love that is big and wide enough to redeem sinners.

In Christ, God did just that when He forgave our sins with the life of His beloved Son.  Our problems may not disappear any time soon but the reality of God’s love ought to gives us a perspective in the midst of them so that we are not given to despair and joylessness.  Yes, He is a God worth waiting for.

Pray that as you face challenges today the Lord would remind You that He is faithful to hear and save.  Pray that the Holy Spirit would be Your Comforter and Encourager throughout the day.

Prayer: Father, there is none like You.  You are high and exalted, yet You condescend to know and care for me.  Lord, I owe You everything and You owe me nothing.  Not for my own sake, but in light of Your mercy, please deliver me from my sin and my affliction.  Hear my cries for help.  Grant me grace to continually wait on You.  For Christ’s sake.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 25


Lunch Break Study

Read Romans 8:18-23: For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is meant by the word temporary here?
  2. What is to be revealed?
  3. What do our spirits truly groan for?

Notes

  1. Our present suffering and the bondage and corruption of creation.  In other words, all the afflictions and trials are a drop in the bucket in comparison to the eternity that awaits us.   
  2. Obviously, we are waiting for the second coming of Christ and the glorified saints [a.k.a., the sons of God (v. 19); the glory of the children of God (v. 21)] who will reign with him in a “new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13b).
  3. Adoption and the redemption of our bodies, that is, transformation of our body into “imperishable” body (1 Cor. 15:53).

Evening Reflection

Affliction is easy to discuss, but not so easy to experience.  Often we distract ourselves from ongoing struggles with busyness and fun.  Take a moment to be honest with the Lord about the real challenges, doubts, and trials that you are facing.  Allow the Holy Spirit to minister to you and remind you of the Lord’s care for you.

August 30, Sunday

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought is an updated version of AMI QT Devotional first posted on August 30, 2013.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Significance of the Baptism of Jesus”

Luke 3:21-22

Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

natalia-rudisuli-8u44iVUvdno-unsplashPeter, astounded that his master Jesus was about to wash his dirty feet, said to him, “No, you shall never wash my feet” (Jn. 13:8a).  John the Baptist reacted similarly when Jesus came to be baptized by him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matt. 3:14).  John responded that way because he understood the implications of what Jesus was allowing to happen, saying, “Let it be so now.”

First, John knew that it was he who needed to be baptized by Jesus who had a greater baptism to offer.  This is to say, while John was sent to baptize with water, Jesus came to “baptize with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:33b).

Second, John knew that only sinners need to be baptized as a sign of repentance. Thus, “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River” (Matt. 3:5-6).  But Jesus Christ the Son of God was sinless.  Yet from the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he identified himself with sinners, after which he demonstrated that he is truly the Son of Son by way to fasting for 40 days in the wilderness and then thwarting the temptations of the devil.

Who would do that for us except our God who “demonstrate[d] his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Take a moment to thank Jesus for identifying with us so that He could take the burden of our sins upon Himself.

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I really did not see the significance of your baptism until today.  That is really awesome and also humbling.  You absolutely love us!  Help me to constantly live in gratitude of your sacrifice for me.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Chronicles 24