February 14, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Success and Power”

Genesis 45:9-11

Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry. 10 You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, and your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. 11 There I will provide for you, for there are yet five years of famine to come, so that you and your household, and all that you have, do not come to poverty.”

I have distinct memories of my parents telling me starting at a very young age that it was my responsibility to be successful—that is, to grow up, do well in school, and get a good, well-paying job.  The purpose was so that I could provide for my parents financially and take care of them.  They would move into the house I owned that would presumably be big enough for them and my future wife and children.  This is the expectation of a firstborn son, like me, in a traditional Chinese family.

Joseph would have made a great firstborn Chinese son.  His hard work and perseverance had paid off.  His position as the “lord of all Egypt” made him one of the most powerful people in the world and a very wealthy man as well.  He sends word to his father to come to Egypt, because Joseph is so successful that he is able to provide for his father and his whole family financially, giving them a place to live in Egypt in the midst of a severe famine.  Joseph used his success and his power to care for his family.

We live in a culture where success and power is about elevating the self.  If someone “makes it” in life, they are supposed to buy the nice house, nice car, expensive gadgets, and go on extravagant vacations— and all of this is to glorify the self.  The traditional Chinese ethic is a bit better, since the goal of success is to provide for your family; but even then, it is a self-centered path.  God calls us to use our success and power for something much greater than providing for our own families.

While Joseph did use his wealth and power to provide for his family, God was using him for much greater purposes.  Joseph was blessing nations who were in need of food, and thus he was preserving lives.  And, of course, in taking care of his family, Joseph was being used by God to keep His covenant with Abraham and make his descendants into a great nation.  Joseph did not work to glorify himself, but he was glorifying God through his success and power.

As you do your work today, what or who are you doing it for?  What is the purpose of your success, power or privilege?  Let’s seek to use whatever God has given us to be a blessing to this world!

Prayer: Jesus, help me to be a blessing to others this day. I pray that I will not focus on myself and what I get out of life, but I will be used by You to bless those around me.  Use me for Your glory, God. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Numbers 35


Lunch Bible Study

Read 1 Timothy 6:17-19: As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

Questions to Consider 

  1. According to this passage, what are the dangers of being rich? Why is this a danger for all of us, even if we are not wealthy now?
  2. What should the rich do with their wealth?
  3. What is the reward for being righteous with our wealth?

Notes

  1. Paul tells Timothy to warn those who are rich to not be proud or put their hope in their wealth. The danger of riches is that we can find ourselves trusting in those riches for joy and security, instead of trusting in God.  In today’s world, if you are able to read this devotional, you are VERY rich, especially in comparison to the rest of the world.  So this is a warning for all of us.  We must all be careful not to put our hope in riches or in future riches, but we must strive to put all of our hope in God and His love for us.
  2. The rich are to do good, do good works, and be generous and ready to share their wealth to anyone in need. In 1 Timothy 6:10, Paul calls money “the root of all kinds of evil,” but money itself is not intrinsically evil.  If we have riches, God has a purpose in giving it to us; it is meant to be used to bless others.
  3. The reward for generosity and doing good works with our riches is that we “take hold of that which is truly life,” meaning that when we are people who receive wealth and freely give it away, we get to live life the way it’s meant to be lived. People who give generously live joyfully, while people who are stingy and hold on to their riches will never feel fulfilled or fully joyful.

Evening Reflection

Think about all that you have financially, materially, relationally and spiritually. If we step back and really think about how much we have, we should realize that we are wealthy.  God has not given you everything you have just for your comfort and joy; He has a much greater purpose for you. Pray about all that you have and see what God might have you do with it.

February 13, Tuesday

The AMI QT Devotionals from February 12-18 are provided by Pastor Shan Gian, who serves as the Fenway site pastor of Symphony Church in Boston.  Shan, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Jenny; and they are the proud parents of Tyler.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Half Empty or Half Full?”

Genesis 45:4-8

So Joseph said to his brothers, “Come near to me, please.” And they came near. And he said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. 6 For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. 8 So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.

“Is the glass half empty or half full?” If someone answers that it’s half full, you can presume that he approaches life with optimism, but if someone says the glass is half empty, then he must be a pessimist, perceiving situations with a negative point of view.  There’s no right or wrong answer, of course, but what this question shows us is that how a situation is perceived depends on one’s point of view.

If we look at how Joseph’s saw his own life at this point, it seems like he is a “half full” kind of a person.  He tells his brothers that it wasn’t because of them that he was in the position he was in, but that it was God who sent him into Egypt so that he could preserve life.  This is quite an amazing statement, considering all that Joseph had been through and what his brothers had done to him.  If any of us went through what Joseph had experienced, we would be pointing our fingers and blaming these brothers for all of the terrible things we had to endure.  Somehow, Joseph’s perception of his life was not that everything was so terrible and that he was treated wrongly or unfairly.  Instead, Joseph was able to look at his life and say that it was for good.

Joseph’s view of his life is not an example of positive psychology or proof of the power of positive thinking.  He’s not just a “half full” kind of guy with an optimistic view of life.  Rather, Joseph was able to recognize the true reality: that his life belonged to God and that it was God’s hand that led him to where he was. When we think about our lives, our stories, or our past, we need to strive to have the same perspective that Joseph had.  We all need the faith to see God’s hand working, no matter how good or bad the circumstances in our lives have been.  Let us strive this day to see the reality of God’s presence which is with us always.

Prayer: Jesus, I think You for Your enduring presence and faithfulness in my life. Give me eyes of faith to see that You have always been with me, and that You will continue to be with me all the days of my life.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Numbers 34


Lunch Bible Study

Read 2 Kings 6:15-17: When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Questions to Consider 

  1. Why was Elisha’s servant afraid?
  2. Why was Elisha not afraid, in spite of seeing this massive army surrounding them?
  3. How can we be like Elisha and not fear in our difficult circumstances?

Notes

  1. Because when he looked outside, he saw a huge army of horses and chariots (army of the Arameans) surrounding the city they were in, and they had come to capture Elisha. To see a vast group of your enemies surrounding you would certainly be something to be fearful of.
  2. Because he could see the full reality of the situation—not just the physical reality but also the spiritual reality. His servant could only see with his physical eyes, but after Elisha prayed, his eyes were opened to the spiritual dimension where he could see what Elisha could see, an even greater and more powerful army, the army of God surrounding them and protecting them.
  3. We need to pray that our eyes can be opened to the spiritual reality; not only are God’s armies with us, but God Himself, the Holy Spirit, dwells within us always. As 1 John 4:4 says, “…he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” We do not need to fear anything in this world because He is with us.

Evening Reflection

As you reflect on this day, did you have a sense of God’s presence with you throughout the whole day?  It’s easy for us to forget that He is with us, so we must praying continually that our eyes will be opened to seeing Him and His presence with us.  Remind yourself of His presence and pray that God will continue to open your eyes to see Him.

February 12, Monday

Devotional Thoughts for Today 

“Family Matters”

Genesis 45:1-3

Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. 3 And Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence.

The following is possibly a true story found on the Internet: “We convinced my youngest sister that she was adopted; it was fairly easy because she was a platinum blonde and the rest of us are all brunettes… She got us back by being happy that she wasn’t actually related to us.”

Whether or not it’s true, this short anecdote is humorous to most of us because we all relate to dysfunction in family. To varying degrees, we all struggle with being a brother or sister, or being a son or daughter in our families.  And sometimes we might wish we weren’t actually related to our parents or siblings.  Why is this? Because there is no person or group of people who will annoy, bother, frustrate or even hurt us in quite the same way as our own families.

If anyone could tell a story about being hurt by his family, it would be Joseph. His own brothers tried to kill him, but instead sold him into slavery—setting off a chain of events where he ended up in prison. And so when we read about the mind games that Joseph played with his brothers (Genesis 42-44), we can understand that he was acting out of the deep hurt inflicted on him at the hand of his brothers.  And we see how deep the pain went as he wept so loud that everyone could hear.  However, in spite of all of the hurt and pain, Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers, begining the process of reconciliation and healing with his family.

For many people, it is a major struggle to love their families and to find healing and forgiveness from past hurts.  And what’s great about the Bible is that it doesn’t act as if this isn’t the reality for many people, but instead, it shows us the messiness.  There is so much dysfunction and pain in most of the families that we read about in the Scriptures. But the Bible doesn’t just show messiness, it also gives hope for healing and reconciliation.  Whether it’s relationships with our parents, siblings, spouses, friends, fellow believers, etc., God calls us to be agents of reconciliation and to take those first steps, like Joseph, towards the path of healing and forgiveness and love. Let us continue on that path and ask God for His love for those who have hurt us—especially those in our own families.

Prayer: Jesus, I give you all of my past hurt and pain, and I ask for Your healing touch in my heart.  Give me Your love for my family and for whoever has hurt me.  Help me to forgive as You have forgiven me.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Numbers 33


Lunch Bible Study

Read 1 John 4:19-21: We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why is there a disconnect between saying “I love God” while hating one’s brother?
  2. How does the love of Jesus change how we treat others?
  3. Who in your life have you found hard to love? How can you overcome your lack of love for them?

Notes

  1. John tells us that someone who talks and lives like this is a liar, because if you hate your brother, it means that you do not understand the love of God to begin with.
  2. If we have experienced the love of Jesus, it should move us to love others—even those whom we find hard to love. The love of God shown to us through Jesus Christ is so amazingly gracious and undeserved, that it should provoke within us the desire and the strength to love those we would normally find unlovable.  This is why John says, “We love because he first loved us.”
  3. Personal reflection question.

Evening Reflection

Overcoming past hurts is not a quick or easy process.  But the road to healing and reconciliation begins with small steps of surrender to God and beginning to forgive those who have hurt us.  If there is hurt or unforgiveness that you’re holding onto, reach out to a brother or sister in Christ to ask for prayer and help. Also, regardless of where your heart is, take some time reflecting on the grace and mercy shown to you through Jesus.

February 11, Sunday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Speak a Word

Genesis 44:18

Then Judah went up to him and said, “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself.

Perhaps one of the most amazing realities of being a Christian is the ability to speak directly to God. At any point, any place, we have access to the Father – to speak with Him, to hear Him speak to us, to enjoy His presence. How amazing this is!

Even in this world, we do not have access to speak to people of fame or authority. As a big Eagles fan, I have been following the Instagram accounts of various players, because—in a way—it makes me feel closer to them. I want to thank them for bringing the trophy back to Philly, I want to congratulate them for playing a great game, and I want to hear their thoughts—yet, sadly, I cannot. Similarly, when I was working at my old company, I remember one time being in the CEO suite due to a random occurrence. I felt like I was in a place of power, and I wanted to speak to the CEO and hear his thoughts about the company—but, sadly, I could not. No way would he speak to a lowly employee like me.

For Judah, there was fear when he came to Joseph, due to Joseph’s power and authority. He felt like he did not belong in Joseph’s presence, so Judah pleaded for the chance to speak to him. But our God—the Creator of the universe, the Creator of life, the One who spoke to create everything out of nothing—has made Himself available to us. Through Jesus, we can pray to Him, without fear, without hesitation. May we never take this for granted! Oh, how easy it is for prayer to become old news, a mundane chore we do. Today, let’s remember what prayer is: talking to our God in Heaven. Let’s come to Him without hesitation, knowing that He is available to us.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for listening to my prayers. There is no reason You should listen, but You do because You love me as Your child. May I yearn to always speak to You, without any reservation. Thank You for this wonderful gift of prayer. May I never take it for granted, but rather, help me to pray without ceasing. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Numbers 32

February 10, Saturday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Falling Before Him

 Genesis 44:14

When Judah and his brothers came to Joseph’s house, he was still there. They fell before him to the ground.

I became Rescue Ringa Christian in college and I remember at my very first college retreat, during the response time to one of the messages, we spent a considerable amount of time in individual prayer. I was still a new believer, just learning how to pray, so my prayers were often very formal, even forced, since I felt like my prayers needed to be polished, like a well-written piece of literature! However, at this retreat, I was struck by many people around me who fell on their knees in prayer and were screaming in repentance before the Lord. What struck me was the freedom they showed in their prayers despite (or because of) this sense of unworthiness before God. They simply bowed before Him, desperate for His grace. This left a profound impact on me: realizing that I did not need to be so formal in my prayer, realizing that God was so much greater than me, I similarly fell before God and experienced a powerful sense of grace as I unashamedly expressed my desperation for God.

Obviously, Joseph is not God, but Judah and his brothers had a similar sentiment. They were stricken with a sense of unworthiness before Joseph given his position of power and given the appearance of guilt. (Benjamin was found with Joseph’s silver cup.) They were utterly desperate due to Judah’s promise to keep Benjamin safe – they did not want to fail their father, Jacob (again). They knew there was nothing they could do except come before Joseph, pleading for him to show mercy to Benjamin and to the brothers.

Though the brothers were left to wonder what Joseph’s response would be, we know that God welcomes us in our desperation for Him. Today, let’s set aside time to bow before our God in desperation, knowing just how unworthy we are. Yet, despite our unworthiness, in this posture of need and repentance, He comes to us and gives us grace. May we unashamedly fall before our Lord this day, holding nothing back before Him!

Prayer: Lord, I come to You with nothing to offer except my life. May I bow down before You, not just with my body, but with my heart as well, as I recognize my utter need of You in my life. I know I fall short of You again and again, so I need Your grace. Come, Lord, I need You this day!

Bible Reading for Today: Numbers 30-31

February 9, Friday

 Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Freely Given”

Genesis 44:1-2

Then he commanded the steward of his house, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, 2 and put my cup, the silver cup, in the mouth of the sack of the youngest, with his money for the grain.” And he did as Joseph told him.

Joseph is being tricky. He is purposely trying to get Benjamin in trouble so that he can see his brothers protect Benjamin. In a sense, he wants to see if his brothers will treat Benjamin in a similar way to how they had treated Joseph before he ended up in Egypt. Still, Joseph returned their money and gave them more food than they paid for, though he secretly put his silver cup in Benjamin’s pack. All this made his brothers nervous and made them wonder what Joseph was really up to.

Though Joseph was actually being tricky, in our culture, we can often be skeptical when someone tries to give us something for free. We feel like there is a catch. At Symphony Church, we often do something called “servant evangelism,” where we hand out granola bars or water bottles to people as a simple act of service; yet, many people are skeptical, thinking there must be a catch. But there isn’t—we just want to bless them! But still, many people think we must be up to something, that we are being tricky in some way.

This attitude can even bleed into our relationship with God. Free things make us nervous, so we do not accept free grace. We often operate under an attitude of needing to earn this grace. We think, “It can’t really be free!” But it is! Unlike Joseph, God is not tricky. He does not give us grace in a self-interested way. He gives grace at the cost of His Son. And even more, the Bible tells us that God gives us “every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3). He gives us more than we could imagine. Though Joseph was being tricky when he gave his brothers more than enough food, God freely gives us more than enough.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, that You freely bless me with every spiritual blessing. Many times, I find it difficult to accept this, yet still You give and give to me. Lord, You truly are a wonderful Father who gives every good and perfect gift. May I continually give thanks for all that You continually give to me. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Numbers 29


Lunch Break Study 

Read Ephesians 1:3-4: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

Questions to Consider

  1. In this passage, what is the reason Paul is blessing God?
  2. What do you think it means that God has blessed us “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places”?
  3. What is the end result of receiving these blessings from God?

Notes

  1. Because God has blessed us! Similar to how John says that “we love because God first loved us” (1 John 4:19), we bless God because He first blessed us! Our worship of God is an overflow of the abundant blessings that God has poured out on us. Let’s worship God today because of the immense blessing He continually pours out on us!
  2. First off, we need to recognize that the grounding of these blessings is “in Christ.” We receive this blessing because we are in Christ. Jesus, as God’s beloved Son, is blessed by God because of this immense love God has for His Son. Similarly, in Christ, we are called “children of God,” so this spiritual blessing is similar to that immense love God has for Jesus. Jesus, in the heavenly places, is eternally loved by His Father and we enter into this great love relationship as we are called children of God. As children, we receive more blessing than we could ever imagine! We receive perfect, eternal love.
  3. We are transformed! We may read this and think, Oh, Paul says that we need to be holy and blameless. Suddenly, this leads us to think we are only loved by God when we actually are holy and blameless, as if this is something we need to do. But that is not what Paul is saying! He is saying that as we receive this blessing, it demonstrates that God has called us His own and this results in us being transformed. We become holy and blameless not by our strength but by receiving the blessings from God.

Evening Reflection

Tonight, spend some time in thanksgiving. God has given you blessing upon blessing, though often we do not notice or we take it for granted. Let’s consciously thank God for all that He has given us.

February 8, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Finding Family

Genesis 43:11-4

Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. 12 Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was an oversight. 13 Take also your brother, and arise, go again to the man. 14 May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”

Many of us likely know the story of the prodigal son, a parable told by Jesus in Luke 15. A son, who was the younger of two brothers, asked his father for his share of the inheritance and, having received it from his father, left and went to live in a far country where he wasted all the money. But upon realizing his utter bankruptcy, the son thinks to himself, “Perhaps I should return home.” However, because of his worry that the father won’t accept him unless he returns as a servant, he plans a speech accordingly: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants” (Luke 15:18-9).

There is a similar feeling expressed by Jacob and his sons in our passage for today. They believe they have wronged Joseph and feel like they need to appease him when they return, hence all the gifts they plan to bring with them. There certainly was fear over how Joseph would treat the brothers when they returned to Egypt. Jacob even wonders if he will lose his children. Yet (spoiler alert), when the brothers return to Egypt, they do not encounter a man desiring to punish them like servants, but they encounter a brother wishing to be reconciled to them as family. This is similar to the prodigal son story: the son expected to return as a servant but was rather greeted as a son, as family.

Many of us operate out of fear in our relationship with God. We have the mindset of Jacob and his son, or of the prodigal son, assuming the worst, assuming only condemnation and punishment. Yet, that’s not who our God is! Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”

Are you operating out of fear in your relationship with God or out of grace? Remember today that our God delights to call us sons and daughters, not slaves. Through Jesus, we do not find condemnation in God, rather we find family. May we return to Him and receive grace upon grace; may we return to Him and receive the heart of the Father.

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for opening a way for me to be called a child of God. Thank You that I am now part of Your family. May I not live in fear, assuming condemnation and punishment. Help me to live in joy, because You have given me grace upon grace. I praise You for this great love You have shown me. May I return to You today. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Numbers 28


Lunch Break Study 

Read Luke 15:20-24: And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Questions to Consider

  1. How does the father react to seeing his son coming home?
  2. What does the father do in response to his son’s rehearsed speech?
  3. What does this reveal about the father’s heart for us?

Notes

  1. First off, the fact that the father saw his son means the father was looking for him. He did not move on – he still held onto hope that his lost son would come home. So, when he sees his son on the horizon, his reaction was compassion. He could probably sense the brokenness inside the son. Out of this compassion, the father ran to his son, despite the shame of running, despite the shame his son brought on him. The father ran to his son and embraced him.
  2. The father cuts him off! The son doesn’t even get to finish his prepared statement. The father basically says, “Stop talking! You are home! You are welcome here and you are still part of this family!” The father clothes his son, thus accepting him back as his son, not slave, and then the father throws a party for him. The father is joyous!
  3. This is a picture of our Heavenly Father. Despite the distance we may feel between us and Him, despite the brokenness and unworthiness we may feel inside ourselves, the Father always welcomes us back. He runs to us and embraces us and calls us sons and daughters. Our Father is joyous when we come to Him!

Evening Reflection

This evening, go to the Father. Feel His embrace, feel His ever-present love. Feel the joy that He has for you. Let this consuming love give you peace. May you rest tonight in the love of the Father.

February 7, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Pledge of Safety”

Genesis 43:8-9

 And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. 9 I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever.”

When I read this passage, what comes to mind is Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings. In the Fellowship of the Ring, Aragorn promised to protect Frodo no matter the cost. He would stand by his side and ensure that no danger would come upon him. Similarly, in the Two Towers, Aragorn made it his mission to find Merry and Pippen, and to ensure that no harm came upon them by the hands of the Uruk-hai. Parents often do something similar: they tell their children to trust them, that they will guarantee their safety, as they ride a bike for the first time, or do something else that could be scary for the child.

In this passage, Judah is the one guaranteeing the safety of Benjamin, Jacob’s youngest son. He tells Jacob to not worry, to trust that he could ensure the protection of Benjamin. As we may know already, Jesus was a direct descendant from Judah. Just as Judah was pledging to ensure the safety of Benjamin, Jesus pledged His life to protect us from sin and death. Judah says that if any harm came upon Benjamin, he would “bear the blame forever.” Jesus actually did bear the blame, though it wasn’t His blame. He bore our blame so that we may become blameless.

Jesus is greater than Aragorn, He is greater than Judah. There is no emptiness to the pledge He makes to us. Our safety is guaranteed in Him—not necessarily physical safety, but our eternal safety. Jesus, the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His own that we may eternally be His. Today, let’s remember our Savior, the One who pledged His life for us, the One in whose love we will always be.

Prayer: Jesus, thank You for being the Good Shepherd who will never abandon us. I know at many times I feel like I’m on my own, that I need to fight for my own safety, but forgive me for forgetting that You are always with me and will never let go. Thank You that I am eternally secure in You.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Numbers 27


Lunch Break Study 

Read John 10:11-18: 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does it mean that Jesus, who is speaking in this passage, is the Good Shepherd?
  2. Describe the intimacy between the Good Shepherd and His sheep.
  3. Why does Jesus lay His life down for His sheep?

Notes

  1. This passage tells us that Jesus as the Good Shepherd “lays down his life for the sheep.” Other people are just like hired hands, they will not actually protect us from real danger. Jesus the Good Shepherd is the only one who can actually protect us and ensure our eternal safety. Take some time to think over your own life. What are the “hired hands” in your life that you are putting your trust in over Jesus?
  2. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep and His sheep know Him. And this relationship echoes the relationship between Jesus and God the Father. Further, Jesus’ sheep know His voice. This is such a beautiful picture of our intimacy with Him! We know His voice; we can hear Him calling us.
  3. Jesus lays His life down for us of His own accord. Jesus chose to lay Himself down because of His love for us, His sheep. May we remember this great love He has for us. For some of us, we may think, “Yeah, yeah, I know this already.” But do our lives reflect this trust we have in Jesus’ love? Do we feel absolutely secure in Him? Challenge yourself to trust in Him more and more!

Evening Reflection

This afternoon we read that Jesus’ sheep can hear His voice. Take some time tonight to listen for the voice of Jesus. He is speaking His love over us – may you hear Him tonight and know this intimacy that is possible in Him!

February 6, Tuesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“You Shall Not See My Face”

Genesis 43:3

But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’”

I am sure many of us have had times where we have gotten into arguments with friends or family. This seems to be a way of life. Put two or more sinners together, and there is sure to be conflict at times! A common expression people will use when in periods of conflict is this: “I do not want to see you right now!” Have you ever said that or something similar before? I know I have!

As we know from the story of Joseph, there was certainly reason for him to be upset with his brothers. Because of them, he ended up as a slave in Egypt! Yet, as Joseph’s brothers came for grain during the famine, you can sense there was an eagerness for Joseph to be reconciled to them; however, before doing that he wanted them to bring Benjamin. In some way, this was how Joseph believed they would demonstrate their repentance for what they had done. But until then, his brothers wouldn’t see his face again.

Unfortunately, in our relationship with God, many times we project a similar sentiment onto God. Sometimes we think to ourselves, “God must be angry with me because I messed up. He probably does not want to see me right now.” Yet, the amazing truth is that, despite our brokenness, God wants us to be with Him! Though we do not see Him face to face yet, we can be in His presence!

Romans 5:2 says, “Through [Jesus] we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Because of Jesus we can come to God and be reconciled to Him. He will never say to you, “I do not want to see you right now.” Rather, He says to us, “Nothing can separate you from my love.” May we rejoice in this amazing love of our Father, knowing that He is eager for us to be with Him—no matter what.

Prayer: Lord, thank You that you made a way for me to come to You. May I love to be in Your presence. Help me to not shrink back in fear when I feel I messed up. But may I come to You, continually knowing that You are the source of grace. Thank You for this great love You have always shown me; thank You that nothing can separate me from this love. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Numbers 26


Lunch Break Study 

Read Romans 5:1-2: Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why do we have peace with God?
  2. To what have we obtained access? What does this mean?
  3. What keeps you from recognizing God’s presence in Your life?

Notes

  1. We have peace with God because “we have been justified by faith”! This means that we have been forgiven of our sins – everything that would have made us not be able to be in God’s presence has been removed so that we can be with Him! What’s amazing is that this is not a one-time thing. We are forever forgiven and even though we still feel unworthy to be with God, this forgiveness is does not go away
  2. 2 says that we have obtained access by faith into God’s grace. This peace and this grace that we received means we can be reconciled with God and actually be with Him. May that encourage us each day, that no matter where we are, no matter how we feel, we can be with God in His presence.
  3. Perhaps there is a feeling that some sin is keeping you from being with God. Do not let that hold you back from Him! Ask God for forgiveness that you may receive grace upon grace, a grace that is bigger than our sins. Let’s rejoice in the love of God that draws us to continually to Him!

Evening Reflection

As you get ready for sleep, invite the presence of God over your life. Ask Him to be with you as you sleep, that you may not just get physical rest tonight but spiritual rest as you rest in His love.