June 11, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals from June 11 to 17 are provided by Pastor Yohan Lee of Remnant Church, New York City. Yohan graduated from University of Pennsylvania and Cairn University, where he studied theology.  He is married to Mandie, and they have four adorable children.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Patience and Punishment”

Jeremiah 11:1-8 

This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: 2 “Listen to the terms of this covenant and tell them to the people of Judah and to those who live in Jerusalem. 3 Tell them that this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Cursed is the one who does not obey the terms of this covenant— 4 the terms I commanded your ancestors when I brought them out of Egypt, out of the iron-smelting furnace.’ I said, ‘Obey me and do everything I command you, and you will be my people, and I will be your God. 5 Then I will fulfill the oath I swore to your ancestors, to give them a land flowing with milk and honey’—the land you possess today.”  I answered, “Amen, Lord.”  6 The Lord said to me, “Proclaim all these words in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem: ‘Listen to the terms of this covenant and follow them. 7 From the time I brought your ancestors up from Egypt until today, I warned them again and again, saying, “Obey me.” 8 But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep.’”

Several years ago, I watched a recording of a parenting seminar given at the Church of Southland by John Rosemond.  One of Rosemond’s big things was that parents need to be firm—meaning, give directions only once, and punish severely and overwhelmingly when they aren’t obeyed.  Rosemond, humorously, compares kids to degenerate gamblers—they’re willing to play “slots” with their obedience/punishment, even if they only win on rare occasions.  So in practice, you tell your child once to clean up his toys, then you walk away; upon your return, if the toys aren’t cleaned up, you punish the child huge (example given was three weeks of going to bed right after supper, so you’d have to be willing to cancel all events that occur after dinner time—no sports games, music lessons, parties, etc.).  The idea being that once a child has tasted such a torturous punishment, he will think twice about disobeying again.

As a young parent, I walked away from that seminar thinking, This is amazing!  I’m going to do this!  However, after several years and more kids, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that my kids are gonna be wild and never listen to me.  It’s not that I don’t agree with Rosemond’s methods— I still think it’s brilliant—but  I just realized I’m too much of a softee to make it work.  You see, when my kids cry and beg me for another chance, I just melt and give in.  I don’t see the disobedience in them; I only see those three-year-olds who don’t know any better.  So, perhaps to my detriment, I give them chance after chance, hoping that next time they will learn.

Yet in my weakness, I take comfort in the thought that perhaps God is more like me than tough guy and probably awesome father John Rosemond.  By the time Jeremiah walked the streets of Jerusalem in the 6th century BCE, this “covenant,” referenced in today’s passage, had been established for several hundreds of years with Moses.  And unfortunately, most of the Old Testament painfully details how time and again, God’s people broke covenant by worshipping other gods and committing evil act after evil act.  So while God’s words and eventual punishment may seem harsh, ask yourself this: How many times did God actually relent?  When you realize it is probably in the hundreds, you begin to see God as patient, not punishing. While we’re at it, let’s make this a little more personal:  How many times a month, week, day do you mess up?  If you’re like me, the answer is, “a lot”; but chances are more often than not, you are recipients of God’s gracious patience—not his punishment.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for your grace and patience in my life.  Thank You that You loved us so much that You sent Jesus for us.  Help me to overcome the thought that You are out to pounce on my mistakes, but to see how patient and kind You are. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Ezekiel 17 


Lunch Break Study

Read Galatians 6:7-10: Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

Questions to Consider

  1. Given that those who are believers get mercy when we deserve wrath, how can we explain Paul’s statement that we reap what we sow?
  2. Why is endurance so important in the Christian life?  Are you growing weary of doing good?
  3. Why do you suppose Paul emphasizes doing good to those in the “household of faith”?  What implications does that have for you personally?

Notes

  1. A couple of possibilities:  First, our salvation should be viewed as a process, where we are being transformed more and more into the image of Christ; therefore, we continually do “good” to become more like Him.  Second, he could be talking about reaping heavenly rewards, in addition to salvation.  In the radical middle theology, it’s likely both.
  2. Christian life is often compared to a marathon, where completing is a worthy goal.  In that sense, finishing our life well and following Christ all the way to the end is something we should not take as granted—we need endurance.
  3. Jesus says that the world will know that we are His disciples by the way we love one another (John 13:35).  Perhaps we need to take special care of fellow church members and other believers.

Evening Reflection 

Today’s themes were God’s patience and endurance; in many ways, two sides of the same coin.  Are there areas in your life where you are tempted to give in to?  Perhaps it could be a strained relationship, a situation in life, or perhaps a character issue?  Are you willing to endure patiently?  Can you trust that God has a plan and is good through your difficulties?

June 10, Sunday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Mark 9:17-27 

And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18 And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”19 And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20 And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”25 And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26 And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Desperation is usually seen as a bad thing. Whether in an interview, or on a first date, it’s often looked down upon as a repulsive quality. It can cause a person to act outside of their normal character and even take extreme measures. For this reason, the world teaches us to never show our desperation as it can reek of pity and weakness. Yet, here in this passage, we see how the desperate faith of a father leads him to Jesus. And from this account, we are reminded an important aspect about faith.

In our passage, the father has tried everything in his power for his son. He’s even turned to the disciples of Jesus who have done such miracles in the past. Yet, all have failed and it’s now just him and Jesus. In his utter hopelessness and despair, he musters up this desperate cry, “I believe; help my unbelief!” This simple prayer captures the perfect combination of faith and confession: It was faith in that he knew Jesus had the power to heal; yet, it was a confession of his own weakness for the unbelief that still existed in his heart. Though his desperation began in the acceptance of his weakness, it became the assurance of his faith in Christ. When we direct our desperation toward Him, it produces faith—the faith that God seeks and responds to. This in turn leads us to cry out to Him with some of the most raw prayers like that of the father. And to this Jesus responds, “Bring them to me, no matter how impossible the situation may be, bring them to me”.

Spend some time reflecting on this. When was the last time you were desperate for the Lord? Like the heart of this father, may we be honest before Jesus, asking that He would help the areas of unbelief in our lives. When we think about the greatest revivals or even greatest movements in history, all of these were driven by a desperate desire for change.

Prayer: Whatever it takes, Lord, decrease my proneness to wander from You by keeping me desperate for You (adapted from Jon Bloom). I confess of my own apathy and lack of zeal towards you. Revive me once again; may I be desperate for You once again. Amen.

Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 16

June 9, 2018

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 10:23-24

“I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.24 Correct me, O Lord, but in justice; not in your anger, lest you bring me to nothing.”

If you were to ask me in college what my future plans were, I could’ve offered you my 5 year, 10 year, and maybe even my 15 year plans; and each plan had milestones to track my progress.

And so, it wasn’t surprising that I’d have such a hard time accepting my call into ministry. More than giving up financial security and a stable career, or even my well thought out plans, the most difficult part was giving up control. It meant allowing God to redirect all of my life, not just the parts I wanted Him to. For many of us, this is why the call to surrender can be so difficult.

Jeremiah reminds us in our passage a timeless truth about allowing God to direct our steps. It was clear that every time the Israelites followed their own plans, destruction awaited them. Only when they obeyed and followed God’s leading, did they prosper and live under His blessings. Jeremiah confesses their inability to direct their lives apart from God and the need for God’s intervention. Where does this leave us in our plans? Proverbs 16:3 teaches us to “commit your work to the Lord and your plans will be established.” God doesn’t condemn us for making plans, because oftentimes our plans may be good. But the heart of this passage teaches us that first and foremost, we must be committed to the Lord. Our hearts, our motivations, and our lives must be fully committed to Him. May we give God complete control over the direction and destination of our plans. May we be open to God’s redirection, knowing that it is always for our better.

Spend a few moments reflecting on the areas you struggle to give God control. It may be the last thing you want to do, but it is the necessary first step in living by faith. Take some practical steps today as symbolic acts of giving up control. Maybe for some of us it’s turning off our cell phones for a few hours; maybe it’s leaving a chunk of our day unplanned and simply open to be spontaneous with God; or maybe it’s allowing others to do some of the work. Whatever it may be, know that He is in complete control.

Prayer: Father, I thank You for Your plans of redemption and salvation. Your plans have always been to bless me so that I could live a life according to Your calling, not my own. I know that You work for the good of those who love You. Help me to trust in Your wisdom and not my own. I commit all of my plans to You and submit my life to You.  Amen.

Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 14-15

June 8, 2018

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 10:5-7

“Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good. There is none like you, O Lord; you are great, and your name is great in might. Who would not fear you, O King of the nations? For this is your due; for among all the wise ones of the nations and in all their kingdoms there is none like you.”

In Your God is too Small, J.B. Philips describes the inadequate conceptions Christians have of God. Here are a few that he mentions: resident policeman—God has simply become a moral conscience that tells us what’s good and bad for us; parental hangover—God is a projection of our relationship with our parents; and grand old man—God is an old man much like our grandpa who is irrelevant and distant to us. Philips notes how these misconceptions unconsciously affect not only the way we see God, but also how we respond to Him. In summary, these misconceptions have made our God too small.

And so what’s at stake here? When our conception of God becomes too small, our naturally prone-to-wander hearts begin to make other gods bigger than they really are. This was the case of the Israelites in our passage today. They began turning to the idols of other nations. Idols, in which Jeremiah compares to that of a scarecrow—lifeless and powerless, always promise more than they can offer. Such lifeless idols produce lifeless faith. Timothy Keller describes idols as “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” And to this, Jeremiah points our attention to the true nature of who God is: incomparable, great and mighty, feared among the nations, living and everlasting, the only true God for eternity.

King David probably held the title as the most successful king conquering nation after nation and leading the Israelites into prosperity and power. Yet even in the midst of all these accomplishments, Psalm 27:4 shows that his greatest desire was to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord. It was God’s surpassing greatness that captured David’s heart to worship and be a man after God’s own heart. It was what prevented him from turning to such lifeless idols and kept his gazed fixed upon the Lord. Start this morning reflecting on how great our God is. Before our requests for the day or even our confessions, start with adoring Him. There is none like our God!

Prayer: Father, there is none like You. Reveal the idols in my heart; forgive me that I have made them more important than You. More than anything in this world, help me to gaze upon Your beauty. I pray that You would take all of me and use it for Your glory. Amen.

Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 13


Lunch Break Study

Read John 4:21-26 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

Questions to Consider:

  1. How does Jesus redefine worship?
  2. What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth?
  3. How should this change the way we worship Him?

Notes:

  1. Contextually, both the Samaritans and Jews placed a high emphasis on the place of worship: the Jews concluded Jerusalem was the place, while the Samaritans believed the place to be Mount Gerizim. But Jesus redefines worship to be less about the where, but more importantly about the who; in other words, worship is less about the external factors influenced by customs and traditions, but more about the heart.
  2. First, this is the type of worship the Father is looking for. Matt Chandler describes spirit and truth as worship coming from inflamed hearts and informed minds: our minds are informed and set on the revealed Word of God and the Spirit’s presence inflames our hearts. John Piper says this: “The fuel of worship is the grand truth of a gracious and sovereign God; the fire that makes the fuel burn white hot is the quickening of the Holy Spirit; the furnace made alive and warm by the flame of truth is our renewed spirit; and the resulting heat of our affections is worship, pushing its way out in tears, confessions, prayers, praises, acclamations, lifting of hands, bowing low, and obedient lives.”
  3. Personal response. Worship is not a one-time event, but a lifelong journey.

Evening Reflection

Spend a few moments meditating on the following verses:

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” – Isaiah 40:26

Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” – Jeremiah 32:17

“In His hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.” – Psalm 95:4

“Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.” – 1 Chronicles 29:11

When we see something great, we can’t help but be in utter awe of it, whether it’s a person or a part of nature. It affects us mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Sometimes, there is even a physical response that occurs. In the same way our worship is always a response to His greatness. As we meditate on these verses, allow worship to flow from our hearts.

June 7, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 9:23-24 (ESV)

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

Science writer Robert Lee Hotz found that “talking about ourselves—whether in a personal conversation or social media—  triggers the same sensation of pleasure in the brain as food or money.” In fact research showed how self-disclosure could in some cases be even be more rewarding than the latter two. In other words, even science shows how much we love talking about ourselves because we want to be known. It is no wonder that social media platforms, such as Instagram, have become so successful, because they serve as personalized galleries of our accomplishments for others to see.

And here in our passage, Jeremiah writes to this innate desire to boast about ourselves. Using life’s most common boast-worthy things—such as knowledge, power, and wealth—Jeremiah shows us that God doesn’t condemn the act of boasting itself, but rather in who or what we boast in. As the passage says, “let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me.” Many of us will spend our entire lives chasing after accomplishments, wanting to be known by others.   But this must be our life’s ultimate goal: to know Him. For if there’s anything worth boasting about, it is that the Creator of the universe knows us.

The world is infatuated with things that say, “Look at me!” However, as believers we look at our lives and say, “Look at Him!” Look at Him, who gives me my true value and worth. Look at Him, who looks not at my accomplishments, but at me and loves me as I am. For this is what the Lord delights in—that we might know Him and do as He says. Spend a few moments today delighting in this truth. May our lives always point to Him.

Prayer: Father, I confess of my own spiritual blindness and disobedience. Help me to be more sensitive to Your Spirit so that I may see the warning signs in my life. Purify my heart and my desires that I may be transformed into Your likeness. Thank You for Your unending grace that saves me from my sins. Amen.

Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 12


Lunch Break Study

Read James 1:21-25: Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

 Questions to Consider

  1. What does it mean for us to receive the implanted word?
  2. How does the Word of God operate in our lives?
  3. How has the Word of God been speaking to you? Does your life reflect it?

Notes

  1. As believers, we have been given a new heart; and on that heart the Word of Christ is written so that we may obey it through His Spirit. Practically, James continues by addressing the problem of simply knowing the Word. Merely listening to the Word does not mean you are actually receiving it. To receive is to do what the Word of God says. Apostle John, in 1 John 2:3 and John 14:21, says that to truly know Him is to obey Him.
  2. James provides this analogy of a man looking in the mirror. As the mirror reflects the man’s face and perhaps reveals the things he cannot see on his face, the Word of God reflects the true condition of our heart. To look at His Word and not be changed or expect it to reveal something about you, would make it useless. Those who allow God’s Word to direct their lives will live a blessed life.
  3. Personal application.

Evening Reflection 

Sometimes I wonder how certain people can pray so well. While I struggle to find words, some are able to pray like they’re reciting the most beautiful poems full of imagery and life. And for many years, I thought this marked a good or powerful prayer. But theologian Andrew Murray would argue that the power of prayer comes when our prayers are rooted in His Word. He writes, “Little of the Word with little prayer is death to the spiritual life. Much of the Word with little prayer gives a sickly life. Much prayer with little of the Word gives more life, but without steadfastness. A full measure of the Word and prayer each day gives a healthy and powerful life.” In other words, prayer cannot exist without His word present. We can pray the most elaborate prayers with the most flattering words; but if they lack truth, then they mean nothing. Spend some time this evening finding a verse that you can hold onto. Pray this Scripture until you can recite it by memory.

June 6, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today 

Jeremiah 9:6-7 (ESV)

Heaping oppression upon oppression, and deceit upon deceit, they refuse to know me, declares the Lord. 7 Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: “Behold, I will refine them and test them, for what else can I do, because of my people”

No parent wishes to see their children suffer. But every parent knows that there are moments in which suffering is necessary for growing—especially when it comes to disobedience. As parents, it takes a great amount of patience and love to allow children to face the consequences of their actions. It seems even after many warnings, children always want to learn the hard way. And as children we hate our parents because of this, but we learn to appreciate these moments later in life as growth lessons for us.

In our passage today, the children of God have refused to heed the warnings from God and have continued to turn to idols and other destructive practices. In fact, Jeremiah’s entire life was dedicated to warning the people of God of their pending destruction. Commentator Huey writes, “Sometimes when all warnings fail, God submits a life to the crucible of suffering for there was no other recourse for God because of his people’s sins.” And so suffering in this case was a direct consequence of their disobedience. Yet, even in the midst of our own disobedience, God still chooses to call them my people (verse 7). No disobedience will ever compromise our identity in Him. What an amazing truth this is for us!

Even greater, God will never leave us in our rebellion lost in our sins. Instead, God refines and tests us so that we may turn from our ways and embrace Him once again. And so these seasons do not serve as punishment for our disobedience; rather, they are the evidence of His love and desire to make us into His likeness. Spend a few moments reflecting on this. In the areas that may bring regret, know that He offers redemption. For there is nothing God cannot redeem for His glory and purpose. Perhaps there are warning signs in our lives in which the Holy Spirit is nudging us. May we have open hearts to His leading.

Prayer: Father, I confess my own spiritual blindness and disobedience. Help me to be more sensitive to Your Spirit so that I may see the warning signs in my life. Purify my heart and my desires that I may be transformed into Your likeness. Thank You for your unending grace that saves me from my sins.  Amen.

Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 11


Lunch Break Study

Read Hebrews 12:5-11: And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

 Questions to Consider

  1. Why does God discipline us? What is the importance of discipline?
  2. How should we receive God’s discipline in our lives? What are some spiritual disciplines you can work on?

Notes

  1. The author points out that discipline is actually a mark of our status as children of God. Like a father disciplining his child, God disciplines us.  God disciplines us not only to show His love for us, but also for our own good so that we may share in His holiness (verse 10). In fact, the Psalmist would even ascribe that “blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord.” The pains of discipline shouldn’t surprise us; rather, we should expect it, knowing that it is producing in us a fruit of righteousness.
  2. As much as God disciplines the ones He loves, the reverse must be also be true. Those who are disciplined truly love Him. Spiritual discipline can come in the form of prayer, the word, fasting, generosity, etc.

Evening Reflection

In 2005, John Mark McMillan wrote the song, “How He Loves” performed by the well-known David Crowder Band. It was written after his friend died in a car accident, the same night his friend told God he would give his life if it would draw more youth to Christ. Such a story often reveals the raw emotions that surface during seasons of trials and suffering—emotions that are rarely encouraged. And to this, theologian Emmanuel Katongole writes, “Lament is not despair. It is not whining. It is more than just emotions. It is not a cry into a void. Lament is a cry directed to God. It is the prayer of those who are deeply disturbed by the way things are.” Sometimes, it’s in these deepest moments of pain where we can find the greatest experience of His grace.

Take some time and reflect on areas you have kept hidden, because of the pain or sorrow it may bring. As God reveals you to these areas, let Him remind you that only He is the true Savior of your soul. May you find freedom in such a prayer.

June 5, Tuesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 9:4-5 (ESV)

Let everyone beware of his neighbor, and put no trust in any brother, for every brother is a deceiver, and every neighbor goes about as a slanderer.  Everyone deceives his neighbor, and no one speaks the truth; they have taught their tongue to speak lies; they weary themselves committing iniquity.

I am acceptedGrowing up, our schools taught us the dangers of peer pressure, often in the context of substance abuse and other unwanted behaviors. Sigmund Freud studied how an individual succumbs to the peer pressure of a group: his research showed that as individuals feel a sense of worth and belonging to the larger group entity, they will forego their own conscious personalities for the sake of the group. Surprisingly, much of this happens at the sub-conscious level, which makes it difficult to realize the influences of peer pressure; and so this is why peer pressure can be so dangerous—who you surround yourself with is who you will become.

In the context of our passage today, Jeremiah mourns over the influence the people of God have over one another. These are not just outsiders, but fellow believers who are deceiving each other to fall away from the Lord. This is the power we have over one another: we can either influence for the better, or in this case, for worse. For this reason, the author of Hebrews reminds us, “Let us consider how we may stir one another to love and toward good deeds.” To understand the word stir here is to imagine the spurs of a horse rider’s boots to keep the horse under its control. And so to love is more than simply to encourage one another and get along; it is also to correct and teach when necessary, even at the cost of awkward confrontations.

As we understand the power of influence, take a moment to ask yourself this: Who are the people I am influencing?  Who am I being influenced by? Jeremiah clearly warns us to be wise in the people that we surround ourselves with. Are we accountable to a greater body that stirs us toward love and good deeds? May there be people in our lives who will not be afraid to gently rebuke us, to show grace in our failures, and to exhort us in love. Wherever we are, may we seek to be a body of believers who can influence one another to be more like Christ. Take a few moments to pray for our communities and the people in our lives.

Prayer: Father, I thank You for the people You’ve provided in my life. I pray You will use the people around me to speak truth into my life. Give me a humble heart to receive correction when needed. I also pray I can be a godly brother/sister to the people around me and that I may be a light to them. Amen.

Daily Bible Reading: Ezekiel 10


Lunch Break Study

Read Galatians 2:11-14 “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Questions to consider

  1. On what grounds does Paul condemn Peter?
  2. What does it mean to “be in step with the truth of the gospel?”
  3. What can we learn about Paul’s confrontation with Peter?

Notes

  1. Paul accuses Peter of allowing the fear of man (the circumcision party) to influence him, thereby separating himself from the Gentile believers. Commentator George points out, “They were acting as if their Gentile Christian brothers and sisters were still sinners while they, because of their ritual purity and obedience of the law, stood in a different, more favorable relationship to God.”
  2. Later in verses 15-16, Paul establishes the basis for his accusation against Peter. He reminds the believers that we are justified not based on the law or even our cultural upbringing, but Christ alone justifies us. The truth of the gospel is that ALL have been justified, both Jew and Gentile, so we are to welcome and love all.
  3. At a glance, it may seem as though Paul is out of line in speaking to Peter, the well-respected leader among the apostles. If I were Peter, I may have been a little embarrassed and offended for confronting me in front of others. But we see later in 2 Peter 2:14-17, Peter continues to be in good relations with Paul referring to him as his “beloved brother.” Peter is able to receive correction with humility while Paul corrects for the sake of the gospel.

Evening Reflection

Consider the people Jesus chose to surround himself with—uneducated fisherman, hated tax collectors, society-rejected women, and a bunch of nobodies. In a world that tells us to be affiliated with successful and like-minded people, may we be able to see people as Christ did. May we surround ourselves with brothers and sisters who will keep us accountable to the gospel. Spend a few moments to think about the people in your life— it can be a close family member or somebody you see on the way to work. May we be Christ to them.

June 4, Monday 

The AMI QT Devotionals from June 4-10 are written by Andy Kim.  Andy, a graduate of Northwestern University and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) currently serves as a staff at Radiance Christian Church in San Francisco.  And this past November, Andy got married to Jane.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Jeremiah 9:1-2 

“Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! 2 Oh that I had in the desert a travelers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous men.”

In an interview with Christian missionaries, Mahatma Gandhi expressed his affections toward Christ, but also his dislike of Christians. From this interview we may have heard the phrase, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians for your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” Sadly, there are moments where I see fellow believers and I too have the same judgments of their lack of Christ-likeness. And for Jeremiah, this was the context in which he was ministering to the people of God.

Jeremiah was clearly frustrated and disappointed at the people’s lack of repentance and obedience to the Lord. On the one hand, he cannot tolerate their sinful acts, even wishing “to leave his people and be away form them” (verse 2). And on the other hand, he mourns over them for he knows judgment and destruction awaits them. Yet, he does not allow his judgments and emotions towards the people affect his love for them. He maintains a heart of compassion and love to the point where his tears are like that of a fountain. Evangelist Billy Graham once described, “Tears shed for self are tears of weakness, but tears shed for others are a sign of strength.” And these tears point us to Christ, who not only shed tears for us but to the point of shedding His blood so that we may be saved. Even in our utter sin and complete brokenness, Jesus continually cries out for us.

Yes, we should not tolerate sin; yes, we should not tolerate disobedience—but not at the cost of loving people. May we, as Jeremiah did, never lose our heart of compassion toward His people. May we never be quick to judge but always quick to love. Though our minds and emotions may be tempted to judge and criticize, may our hearts remain soft to our fellow brothers and sisters; for this is the love that was shown to us, and we ought to show others. This is the love that Gandhi failed to understand, a love that loves even the most unlovable.

Prayer: Father, I thank You for loving me even in my brokenness. Help me to love others as you have loved me. I confess my hurts and frustrations I have toward my brothers and sisters. I pray that You would help me to have a heart of compassion and a burden for Your people. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ezekiel 9


Lunch Break Study

Read John 17: 20-23 (In context of Jesus praying to the Father, the high priestly prayer before the crucifixion): “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

Questions to Consider 

  1. What is the context of Jesus’ prayer?
  2. What is the importance and purpose of unity?
  3. How does this change our relationships with one another?

Notes 

  1. Jesus prepares to leave and He prays for the unity of believers. He defines unity in relation to the bond between the Father and the Son—that just as they are one, we are to be one with one another. Notice this unity is not something that can be achieved by our own strength, but it is given when we are in union with Him. This is how we are called to love and serve one another.
  2. Jesus teaches us that when we are able to have this relationship with one another, His glory is revealed to the world. Jesus explains that this relationship would be so counter-culture to the world’s standards. Only then will the world see the Father’s love and come to believe in it. What a great reminder of the power of the communion of believers!
  3. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

Henri Nouwen said, “I’m profoundly convinced that the greatest spiritual danger for our times is the separation of Jesus from the Church. The Church is the body of the Lord. Without Jesus, there can be no Church; and without the Church, we cannot stay united with Jesus. I’ve yet to meet anyone who has come closer to Jesus by forsaking the Church.” Unfortunately, the American church has often limited the Christian faith to simply their personal relationships with God. In fact, researcher Dave Olson found that only 23% of American Christians who profess their faith are actively participating in their church. May this be more than a reminder to serve our church, but to love our church as Christ did. Spend a few moments praying for our churches, even praying for a few individuals by name.

June 3, Sunday

Devotional Thoughts for Today 

“The Middle Man”

Jeremiah 8:18-22

18 My joy is gone; grief is upon me; my heart is sick within me. 19 Behold, the cry of the daughter of my people from the length and breadth of the land: “Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King not in her?” “Why have they provoked me to anger with their carved images and with their foreign idols?” 20 “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” 21 For the wound of the daughter of my people is my heart wounded; I mourn, and dismay has taken hold on me. 22 Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of the daughter of my people not been restored? 

I think one of the hardest things in ministry (not just as a full-time pastor but in any aspect of relational ministry), is when you know through prayer and discernment that someone is not walking in a way that is pleasing to the Lord, and yet this person is either unwilling or oblivious to see their errors. Especially in sensitive situations, it’s often difficult to come right out and speak the truth to them, let alone have them listen to you in the first place. It’s almost as if you are stuck in the middle between God and the individual.

So how are we to minister to the people in these situations? What is the wisdom here? The truth is—there is no set answer.

In this last portion of chapter 8, we see this dynamics at play. In these few verses, we come to know Jeremiah’s feelings about the situation (v. 18, 21-22), we see the people respond (v. 19b, 20), and we see God’s reply to the people (v. 19c). It’s clear that the people just don’t get why they are facing such tragedies. They question God, and complain He has deserted them. There is an entitlement for healing despite an unwillingness to repent. And Jeremiah is stuck in the middle of all of this and can do nothing other than to grieve.

When we find ourselves in situations like Jeremiah, I don’t think the right term is “middle-man,” as if to imply that we are to negotiate some kind of settlement. Rather, we are called to be conduits for God to move His people to repentance, because in the end, it is He who will. I have to remember that I am not called to make people repent—only the Holy Spirit can.

But we are called to pray: in the end, that is all that we can do. We pray and allow God to speak to us and to the person. And when He does, we must be ready to respond. This is our ministry.

I am constantly challenged by the thought that while ministering to those who are deceived and disobedient, I am just as susceptible to deception and disobedience while trying to minister to people. I pray that as we continue to ask God how we can join Him in His work, we would respond according to His wisdom, His ways, His power, and His timing.

Prayer: Father, thank You for using people like us as conduits of Your grace. We acknowledge, however, that we are just as sinful and prone to self-deception as the people that we are seeking to minister to. But we find great hope in that when we rely fully on You, You will speak and move in such a way that reveals Your incredible glory. In Jesus’ Name.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Ezekiel 8