January 10, Sunday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Charles Choe who leads Tapestry Church in Los Angeles, was first posted on June 28, 2014.  Charles is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Eyes on the Prize”

1 Timothy 6:12

“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”

I’m not much of a runner, but I’m willing to do anything for a good cause. So I decided to run 10 miles to raise money for a clinic for prenatal babies. But I must admit that about halfway through the run, I was dying. Yes, I wanted to quit; in fact, every muscle in my body was telling me to quit.  Nevertheless, since each mile meant more money, I ran and ran and ran some more, until I finally made it back to that clinic with ten miles under my belt. How could I have finished what I thought I had no ability for? I kept my eyes on the prize, on the finish line. This finish line meant more money for the clinic, and of course, not being a quitter to my sponsors. Keeping my eyes on my goal certainly made all the difference in the world.  

This is what Paul did with Timothy. Paul wanted to steel his protégé for the good fight. He did so by reminding him of the vision of God. Notice how Paul tells Timothy that God is the giver of life. We might feel beaten and disappointed, unable to handle the pressures of life at times, but it is God who renews us with vigor and vivacity. 

God in His grace will give us these moments of refreshment so we will not lose heart when the times of discouragement come. But there’s more: God gives us this renewal or vitality for an even greater purpose, which is to make “the good confession.” To make the good confession is to make God known through Christ to everyone, everywhere. This is the ultimate purpose for our lives. We are to give ourselves to this cause with every ounce of life God gives us; this is what makes life worth living. 

Are you in the good fight? Does the ultimate purpose of your life reflect the purpose to which God has called you? Are you aware that God, the giver of life, has breathed life into you so that you can confess Christ to others? Take some time to acknowledge your need for God, and how your life only makes sense in the light the good confession He has called you to make. 

Prayer: Father, teach me to fight, knowing that You are the author and sustainer of life. Through Your Spirit who lives in me, allow me the same resolution to be a faithful witness that Jesus demonstrated. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 12

January 9, Saturday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey, was first posted on December 4, 2013.  He is a graduate of University of Wisconsin (BA) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“What Should I Do When I Am Inundated with Emotional Pain?”

Hebrews 12:15

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 

Emotional pain is not evil but serves a vital purpose. Emotional pain is similar to physical pain in a sense that it signals a warning that something is wrong. If you have a splinter in your hand, you will get a pain signal to let you know there is something in your hand that should not be there. The pain is telling you that you need healing and that you should seek healing. That pain is not a signal to hurt others. It wouldn’t make any sense if the pain of the splinter makes you attack others with sharp splinters.

Emotional pain is also a signal for you to seek healing. It is not a signal for you to be bitter. The emotional pain is not to be used to judge, lash out, or hurt others. Jesus was rejected and felt pain, yet He was without sin. Jesus did not respond to the emotional pain with bitterness. As Jesus was hanging on the cross, Jesus said “forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” 

The Bible says the bitter root, if it starts to grow in our heart, will grow “to cause trouble and defile many,” meaning the bitter root will bear bad fruits in your life. You will not be able to overcome spiritual attacks. There will be pattern of dysfunction in different areas of your life; God’s blessing is hidden. And other relationships, might be good now, but later will even break the good relationships. 

We need to forgive when we have bitter root in our heart. Forgiveness allows the ministry of healing to touch the emotional pain. Unforgiveness says, “Because you unjustly hurt me, you owe me a debt; I will make you pay.” Forgiveness says, “Even though you hurt me and owe me a debt, I am writing it off. You owe me nothing. It is not my place to make you pay, and I release you to the judgment of God. He is the just judge, and He will rightly decide the case. If there is any penalty, He will collect it.”  So, let it go; forgive! 

Prayer: Dear Father, I praise and glorify Your name.  Lord, please help me to identify bitter root in my heart so that I can forgive those who wronged me.  Help me also to identify what I have done to others so that I can ask for their forgiveness as well.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 10-11

January 8, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on March 5, 2013.  Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Can the Wrath of God Bring Comfort to Us?”

Psalm 21:8-12 (ESV)

Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you. 9 You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear.  The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them.  10 You will destroy their descendants from the earth, and their offspring from among the children of man. 11 Though they plan evil against you, though they devise mischief, they will not succeed. 12 For you will put them to flight; you will aim at their faces with your bows. 

Understandably, most Christians in America are uncomfortable with the idea of God’s wrath.  In our theological grid, there is little room for the justice of God and it seems unloving to talk about God outside of the parameters of His love, mercy, and grace.  

We rarely think that our views of God are purely cultural and don’t realize that these opinions are not shared by much of the world.  Miroslav Volf, who is a theologian at Yale Divinity and eyewitness of the violence in Croatia, talks about the weakness of a God who is unable to exact final vengeance upon his enemies.  If men cannot be certain that God ultimately is just, then we will take justice into our own hands, ensuring that the cycle of violence and war will continue indefinitely.  

In this way, the wrath of God is something to be greatly feared but also something that brings great comfort for those who have suffered for the sake of righteousness.  There is much wisdom in obeying the words of Romans 12:9, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath.”  

As you get ready for the day, is there an aspect of God’s character that you haven’t given much thought to?  Spend a few moments thinking about the many different attributes of God and give Him your worship.    

Prayer: God Almighty, I confess that my thoughts of You are often too small and limited in scope.  Help me to see You more clearly and to seek a greater revelation of all that You are.  May I never lose my sense of awe and amazement as I think upon Your loving goodness and moral perfection.  You are truly Lord of my life and God above all.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today:  Genesis 9


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 5:39 (ESV): You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Questions to Consider

  1. In what context were these words spoken? (Matthew 5:38-42)
  2. What Old Testament commandment was Jesus clarifying?  (Exodus 21:24)
  3. Is this proof that all Christians should be pacifists and stand opposed to war?  

Note

  1. Jesus spoke these words in the Sermon on the Mount, which represents the most important collection of the moral teachings of Christ.  It describes the ethics of those who are members of the Kingdom of God.  Properly applied, it has tremendous power to bring about incredible change in our lives and the world we live in. 
  2. Jesus was clarifying and intensifying the rule of lex talionis found in the Old Testament that restricted retribution so that the punishment would fit the crime.  He wanted believers to be above this tit-for-tat retribution that is common to the world and break the cycle of evil actions that break human relationships.  
  3. This command cannot be taken as an absolute rule.  There are clearly times when Christians must resist evil and even use force in certain contexts.   There is a Christian organization in India that forcefully rescues women enslaved in sex trafficking because of the government’s indifference to this evil.  In certain situations like this, righteous anger is needed and appropriate.

Often times, the commands of Christ seem far too difficult to seriously consider.  This is when we realize that the Christian life is not simply hard, it is impossible unless we are continually filled by the Holy Spirit.  


Evening Reflection

Was there a chance to act in kindness towards someone today?  How did you react in negative situations at work, on the commute, and with your family?  Were you mindful of the Gospel in these situations?

January 7, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional was first posted on December 10, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“‘God’s Thoughts Are Higher Than Ours.’ Really?”

Proverbs 21:30

No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.

George Mueller, the well-known man of faith and director of the Ashley Down orphanage in the late 1800s, recounted an important transitional period in his life. After college, he felt that God was calling him to begin his missionary work in London, but at this time, Germany required all able men to serve in the army. He didn’t want to delay his missionary work, but felt stuck. It was at this time he became very sick to the point that he almost died. While this may have seemed unfortunate, it also rendered him unable to serve in the army. He was now able to begin his work as a missionary. (http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/church-history-for-kids/george-mueller-orphanages-built-by-prayer-11634869.html)

George Mueller’s testimony is filled with stories of miraculous provision of God. While they may seem like fantastic tales of supernatural acts of God, one thing is consistently clear: God will have His way. There are so many ways God surprises us and breaks the paradigm of what our own wisdom says is possible.

Our response to this reality should be twofold: We need to be more humble and to be more trusting. To be humble is to submit our plans in order to grasp and follow God’s plans. To be trusting is to adhere to God’s methodologies in order to fulfill what He calls us to in the way He calls us to. When we grow in humility and trust before the Lord, we will encounter the reality of Romans 8:31 (“If God is for us, who can be against us?”). 

The amazing experiences of faith we see in George Mueller’s life is available to all of us as well. We are called to recognize that God’s thoughts are higher than ours, and to respond in humility and trust.

Is there anything God is calling you to that seems impossible to fulfill?  Today, God is encouraging you to be humble and to trust that God will provide a way to fulfill His calling.

Prayer: Father, grow me in my trust in You. Give me a heart to lay down all my plans before You. I thank You that Your ways and Your thoughts are glorious and higher than mine. Amen

Bible Reading for Today:Genesis 8


Lunch Break Study

Read James 4:13-16: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 

Questions to Consider

  1. What issue is James pointing to in this text?
  2. Why is boasting (v. 16) evil?
  3. How do we rectify this mentality?

Notes

  1. It is the sin of arrogance and assumption. 
  2. This boasting reflects a life that is not lived in the knowledge of the Lord. It fails to recognize that God is in control.
  3. It begins with the recognition that our life is limited and frail (v. 14). 

Evening Reflection

If you desire greatness in the kingdom of God, it begins with humility and trust in the Lord. What are some areas in which you need to trust God?  Has there been humility in your planning? Let this be a night of reflection and submission. Ask the Lord to reveal His plans and His heart, and align your own plans to His.

January 6, Wednesday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by the then (2013) staff of Kairos Christian Church in San Diego, is an updated version of their blog first posted on July 19, 2013.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“How Concerned Are You for the Church?”

Psalm 78:4-7

We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. 5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, 6 so the next generation would know them,  even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. 7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

How concerned are you for the Church, that is, for other believers?   Are you concerned for their spiritual well-being?  The psalmist knew that if the next generation wasn’t told of God’s laws and what He had done, they would be in danger of suffering the same fate as his ancestors.  

We live in an individualistic society that promotes selfishness and we’re often too consumed with our own issues that we miss out on the call to bless those around us.  The post Covid-19 world that forced us to be separated from others will worsen this situation, not better.  We’ve lost this sense of community and being responsible for it.  

But, as a church, we are one body and we need to care for one another.  One way of doing that is to tell the next generation who God is, what he has done, and what he calls us to do, so that they’d trust in God, not forgetting his deeds and keeping him commands.  Let’s remember what happened to Israel when they forgot about God; they were punished and exiled.  May this not be the fate of the next generation of believers.

Recall John 20:31 that says, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  Let’s reflect on who God is and what He has done in our lives, and share this Good News to those around us.

Prayer: Father, thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, and how you continually reveal yourself to me.  Increase my heart for the body of Christ.  Help me to love the Church as you love the Church.  Fill me with your Spirit that I may be a blessing to your Body by proclaiming who you are and what you’ve done.  Amen

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 7


Lunch Break Study

Read James 3:16-18 (NIV): For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Questions to Consider

  1. What results when the members of the church are filled with envy and selfish ambitions? 
  2. What are the qualities of the kind of wisdom that comes from heaven?
  3. What harvest do you reap when sowing peace?
  4. Look to the heaven today and ask for the kind of wisdom that James describes that God has for His children. 

Notes

  1. When there is envy and selfish ambitions, there one will find disorder and evil practices of all kinds. Often, when believers strive for a “higher” or more publicly recognized position in the church, they do not realize that their actions may actually create more problems. They may think that they are the solution and that they will help the church to improve, but James declares that self-seeking attitudes invariably produce chaos and disorder within the Body of Christ.
  2. The kind of wisdom from heaven is pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. True wisdom reflects moral purity and courage; it also includes many good works reflective of an even-tempered, well-balanced character. 
  3. The harvest one reaps is righteousness when those who make peace sows in peace. Throughout all of Scripture, the idea of peace centers on the idea of “wholeness.” It’s an idea that is Hebraic, with a meaning that encompasses much more than a mere absence of the disquiet; rather the prime notion is positive, embracing prosperity, contentment, and security. 
  4. Personal response

Evening Reflection

In what tangible ways did you sense that you were conducting your life (business, relationships, ministry, etc.) with wisdom from heaven. Spend some time thanking the Lord for providing you with this wisdom. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I admit that I struggle deeply with selfishness and jealousy. I look to you and the example of Christ and ask for your heavenly wisdom to fill my heart. Amen.  

January 5, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, prepared by Pastor Jason Sato who is currently serving in Japan as a missionary, was first posted on April 30, 2014. Jason is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Fools for Christ”

Galatians 6:11-18 (ESV) 

“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. [12] It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. [13] For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. [14] But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. [15] For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. [16] And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. [17] From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. [18] The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.”

Have you ever encountered a person who seriously and obviously disliked you? 

Of course not! You are a perfectly likeable person! Or at least, that’s what we hope. We might even imagine that being a virtuous, caring Christian ought to result in everyone liking us, or at the very least respecting us. Yet the Apostle Paul makes it clear that following Christ will lead to persecution. 

In Paul’s day, Jewish Christians were being forced out of synagogues, imprisoned, and even killed. A major point of conflict is that Jewish Christians are seen as unclean for fellowshipping with uncircumcised Gentiles. To avoid this charge and its accompanying persecution, some are attempting to force the Gentiles in the Galatian Church to be circumcised (v. 12). In contrast, Paul proudly bears “on [his] body the marks of Jesus.” Why this different view of humiliation and suffering?

The proponents of circumcision are attempting to boast in the flesh (v. 13). While they believe Jesus is the Messiah, they still want to hold onto their old life. They want to maintain their former dignity and security in their communities. While they wanted to be Christians, they also wanted to continue to upstanding, law-abiding Jews. In contrast, Paul boasts only “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 14). While Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews once, he was willing to let go of his standing in the world to be fully identified with Christ.

None of us want to look foolish or be disliked. None of us want to be labeled as fanatics or bigots. So how can we overcome the temptation to hide our faith and deny Christ with our silence?

Paul’s opponents are still focused on external matters of circumcision and uncircumcision. But he recognizes that we ultimately need to be new people (v. 15). We won’t suffer willingly for Christ simply because of discipline, knowledge, or guilt. In our heart of hearts, we love ourselves – our safety and our reputations – too much. We need to invite the Spirit of God to transform us into people that love God’s glory and hate anything that detracts from it.  So this new year, strive to die to yourself (your ambition and goal) so that you may have a life that is rooted in God alone. 

Prayer: Father, so often I am more afraid of what others might think than of denying You. Please forgive me for my sin and send Your Holy Spirit that I may have a heart that wants You more than safety or respect. May following in Your footsteps be my joy. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 6


Lunch Break Study  

Read Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV): “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. [17] And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. [18] And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Questions to Consider

  1. According to v. 17, what were the disciples experiencing following Jesus’ resurrection?
  2. According to v. 18, what is the foundation of the Great Commission?
  3. According to v. 20b, what is our comfort and reward as we obey his command?

Notes

  1. The disciples were experiencing great wonder and hope. They knew Jesus was the Son of God, worthy to be worshiped. But they also were experiencing fear and doubt. They remembered the great opposition and suffering Jesus Himself endured.
  2. The authority of Jesus is the foundation of the Great Commission.  Jesus has authority to send the disciples as He is their Lord. Jesus has overcome sin and death and therefore has authority to save the nations and judge the world. 
  3. Our comfort and reward is that Jesus will be with us. As we witness to others and testify to the goodness of God, we do not go alone but in the power and presence of God.

Evening Reflection

Reflect on your day. What opportunities did you have to bear witness to Christ? Were you tempted to give in to fear? Continue to pray for a new heart that loses all for the sake of knowing Christ.

January 4, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 4, 2014.

Devotional Thought for this Morning

“Are You Secure in Christ?”

Philem. 1:1

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker.

Who would introduce himself as “a prisoner”?  Is there a social label more stigmatizing than an “ex-con”?  Some Asian parents are known to lie about their wayward children who end up in a juvenile hall.  When asked, they say, “Oh, he is away at a school.”  Frankly, who can blame them?  

Yet, Paul, in his personal letter to Philemon, a man who became a believer through his ministry, identifies himself as “a prisoner of Christ Jesus.”  He does the same when writing to Pastor Timothy, saying, “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner” (2 Tim. 1:8a).

In no way is that a flattering self-description, especially to the people of the world.  Paul probably reasoned it like this: Since the sinless Christ took his place and paid the penalty of sin that Paul, as a prisoner of sin could never pay, he continues to see himself as a prisoner, not of sin, but of his liberator.   

In that sense, that self-description is no different than that of John the Baptist, who, upon being told that Jesus was baptizing more people than him, said, “He must become greater; I must become less” (Jn. 3:30).  Certainly, both Paul and John demonstrate humility, but it wasn’t for the sake of just being humble; it was to show the greatness of Christ in what he did for humanity and what he can do for each individual.  

So, what is one self-description of yourself (besides “the worst of sinners”), which can show the magnitude of Christ to our unbelieving friends and family members?  Mine is this:  I scored less than 800 on my SAT, and then flunked out of college, but by the grace of God and the strength He gave me, was able to obtain a terminal degree.  That’s a story of redemption and there is only one hero in it: Jesus Christ.  

So, is your security “secure” in Christ enough to present yourself to others in unflattering ways as a way to demonstrate his all-encompassing greatness manifested through his grace?  What keeps you from being secure solely based on Christ’s acceptance of you?  Ask the Lord for insights into your life so as to draw near to him in 2021. 

Prayer: O Father in heaven, I praise You and magnify You this morning.  I know that the desire to impress others may always be there in my flesh, but I also know that my desire for Your name to be exalted is the best way to keep it under control.  So God, please strengthen my resolve to make Your name known and for my security to be firmly rooted in Christ’s unconditional acceptance of me.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 5


Lunch Break Study

Read John 21:19-22: Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” 20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”  22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 

Questions to Consider

  1. Insecurity can show up at any time.  Here, Peter just had been reinstated by Jesus after denying him three times.  How would you describe Peter’s insecurity? 
  2. What caused Peter’s insecurity?  
  3. What does Jesus’ response to Peter imply?

Notes

  1. Although Jesus reinstated Peter, it is quite understandable if he had wondered whether things were as normal as before when he was a lead disciple.  Seeing John, Peter was emboldened to test it out, to see whether Jesus was as concerned about the future of his friend as himself.  Maybe, Peter hoped to hear something that would make him believe that Jesus considered him more special than John. 
  2. It wasn’t enough that Jesus accepted and reinstated him unconditionally; in addition, Peter had to be more special to Christ than others were to him.  When we covet something more than Christ himself, that’s showing that we aren’t properly handling our insecurity. 
  3. In short, he said to Peter, “It is none of your business as to what I am going to do for John; stop focusing on other things besides following me to glorify the Father.”

Evening Reflection

How was your day?  Did anything happen that caused you to feel insecure?  How did you handle it?  Write about it and a prayer thereafter asking God to help you better handle it the next time when it happens (like tomorrow). 

January 3, Sunday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, is an updated version of his blog first posted on March 1, 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

“A Real Hope Found in John’s Transformation” 

Mark 3:17

James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”) . . .

Church Father Jerome tells us that when the aged apostle John became so weak that he could no longer preach, he used to be carried into the congregation at Ephesus and content himself with a word of exhortation: “Little children,” he would always say, “love one another.” And when his hearers grew tired of this message and asked him why he so frequently repeated it, he responded, “Because it is the Lord’s command, and if this is all you do, it is enough.”  When we read John’s Gospel or his letters, this story rings true.


Yet love did not always characterize John’s life.  Jesus named John and his brother James,  “Boanerges,” that is, Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17), but what did Jesus mean by this?  We get a hint in Luke 9:51-56: As Jesus and his companions were traveling through Samaria, and they were turned away by the Samaritan village, James and John, without blinking an eye, offered to pray down fire on them (Luke 9:51-56).  Jesus responded by rebuking them, and then took his men to another village, seeing that they were still not ready to proclaim the message of God’s love for the world. Another time, their mother came to Jesus asking that her sons be exclusively seated at Jesus’ left and right when his kingdom would come (Matthew 20).  Upon hearing this, an argument broke out among the disciples!  During his time with Jesus, John did not epitomize the message of loving one another.

Yet, many years later, John would become known as the Apostle of Love, but how did this happen? Was it merely old age which softened John?  Perhaps, but my guess is that the change came by being in the presence of Jesus for all those years.  Our motivation to love always comes as we are loved by Jesus. As for John, he experienced Jesus’ love, saw how Jesus loved, and most profoundly, he was a witness to Jesus’ death on the cross. 

How are you doing with loving others in the church?  If you struggle with loving others, I would tell you that you have a very real hope for transformation.  John’s life tells us that it is possible.  Just remember, transformation and maturity doesn’t automatically happen to us as we get older, but as we follow the cross-carrying Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, we must change; we cannot afford to continue to live the way we have been for years.  Help us to change like John changed.  Help us to dwell in the presence of Christ daily and imitate the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 


Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 4

January 2, Saturday

REPOST 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 21, 2013.  He is a graduate of University of Wisconsin (BA) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“God’s Word, Not in Theory but in Practice”

Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart

The Word of God is not just a concept to understand or information to memorize. It is alive and active and has the power to transform hearts and lives. This power is manifested when we put our energy into walking out or putting the truths and revelations into practice. 

I have read many books that inspired me concerning the biblical revelations on love. Also, I have listened to many sermons and teachings that convicted me about what the Bible says about helping the poor. I have taught Bible studies about the importance of forgiving those who hurt you. But I will not encounter the power of those truths unless I walk it out in my life. When biblical revelations become just a concept to understand without practice, the power of the Word of God will become more and more diminished. 

For instance, when we first hear a sermon on helping the poor, we might wholeheartedly agree, but if not put into practice, the enemy will come and snatch that seed from our heart. We have to hear the truth again, and we agree, but if it remains just a concept, again the power of the word will be stolen from our heart.  After awhile, if this truth is continuously ignored and not put into practice, it will become normal Christianity to live in high level of theory, and experience low level of encounter and power. 

We might, however, be able to teach the gospel, but unable to demonstrate the power of the gospel in our lives.  Jesus taught the gospel, and He also demonstrated the gospel, showing the gospel has power.  So, in this new year, make it your goal to be a doer of God’s word, not just a hearer!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, empower me and motivate me through the Holy Spirit to be a doer of Your eternal word.  Help me to put into practice all your truths that I know all too well.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 2-3

January 1, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 1, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Staying Close to Jesus”

1 John 1:5

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

Of all the numerous New Year’s Eve services I have ever attended, I do remember the very first one in 1981, about seven months after I became a believer.  Actually, the only thing I remember is Isaiah 60:1-2 that someone read during the time of testimony: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”  The interpretation of this passage, in the hands of some theologians, can get polemic (i.e., “Millennium Kingdom”), but for ordinary folks like us, it gives what we desperately need: HOPE!  

So, what can typically happen to an ordinary person in the course of any given year?  Well in 1987, I got married!  Had I read this passage that year, perhaps it wouldn’t have meant as much (too happy).  But by the end of 1990 or 1999, it meant a lot: in 1990, because I was so exhausted from driving a shuttle van to make a living while pastoring a church that was going nowhere; in 1999, because that church, which eventually went somewhere, didn’t go far enough.  Later, having left that congregation and feeling like a failure, I was wondering about my future as a minister as well as a father to three young children.  

Many things happened thereafter, but in due time I came to really see with my heart what I always knew in my head: That which all the lights in the Old Testament had foreshadowed (Heb. 10:1) has indeed come and is always with me.  Said Jesus, “I am the light of the world” (Jn. 9:5b) and “with you always” (Matt. 28:20b).  I experienced that Christ, like a lighthouse to the lost ship at sea, drives out darkness of hopelessness and despair from our lives.  It is both instantaneous (Jn. 8:32) and a process (Phil. 1:6); either way we need to stay close to him.  And having a meaningful and consistent time with the Lord is part of that process.  So, as we begin the New Year, let’s make daily spending meaningful and unhurried time with the Lord our life’s top priority. 

Prayer: Lord, as I start the New Year today, constantly remind me to stay close to your heart.  Help me to stay so close to you that I can hear your heart beat.   Dear Father, whenever a momentary darkness dampens my hope, especially because things do not go as I planned, remind me to center my life and plans from the standpoint of eternity.  May this year be a year in which my life truly glorifies you.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 1


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Jn. 1:5-9:This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Positionally, the believers are always in the light but our actual life can get pretty dark sometimes.  What causes temporary spiritual darkness in our lives that sometimes lasts too long?
  2. Why do we, from time to time, act like we are walking in the light when, in fact, we are in darkness, much like the Pharisees who claimed to see but were blind spiritually (Jn. 9:39-41)?
  3. What is one sure and fast way to rid ourselves of temporary darkness so that we tangibly experience “righteousness (e.g., a clear conscience), peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17b)?   

Notes

  1. In short, it is sin (in actions and attitude), which, when left unrepented for awhile, hardens the heart.  Once that happens, other more sinful things that we couldn’t fathom committing before become quite easy to do.      
  2. Among several reasons, one is this: Looking good before the people.  Of the Pharisees who did many outwardly good things, Jesus said, “Everything they do is done for men to see” (Matt. 23:5a).  That leads to hypocrisy, which is leading a double life.   In other words, we care more about what men think than what God thinks.
  3. An honest evaluation of ourselves followed by an authentic confession of our sins that ought to lead to a genuine repentance; that is, a concrete plan not to commit the same sin (Lk. 19:8).

Evening Reflection

As the first day of 2021 is about to be history, evaluate how the day went: Did someone say or do something that made you feel sad or mad?  Stay close to Christ and hear his heartbeat; what is he saying to you?