February 9, Sunday

Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, first posted on October 7, 2013, is written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey.

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

Mark 1:35

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. 

If the sinless Son of God prayed, then prayer is not an option for us. Jesus prayed so often that when His disciples could not find him, they would look for him in places where he typically prayed. Jesus’ prayer was so genuine and deep that His disciples, despite having grown up in homes and synagogues where prayers were common, asked Him to teach them how to pray. When it was time to choose His disciples, He prayed the entire night. Prayer preceded miracles; prayer enabled Him to go to the cross, and prayer kept Him there despite excruciating pain. 

Treat prayer like the oxygen that we need for our spiritual life. No matter how busy or tired we become, we would do everything to get oxygen if it were to be taken away.  Don’t make prayerlessness normal. Fight for freshness and life in your prayer today. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to really pray.  Lord, help me to pray right now. Lord, help me to pray, not out of obligation but to desire Your presence. Lord, keep me from making prayerlessness normal.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 7

February 8, Saturday

Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, first posted on October 8, 2013, is written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey.

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“A Shot of Expresso or Prayer”

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

We all need peace in our hectic and chaotic life. The solution in the Bible is prayer. Some depend on a shot of espresso, another on a round of golf, or for others it might even be a quart of ice cream. But prayer is so much better, more powerful, and more effective in handling our anxiety. 

Today, let’s really pray; not the superficial, guilt driven, garden variety kind of prayer, but vine to branch connection prayer. Today, find the best time and place to pray. Find a time when you are most alert and awake, as well as a place where you will not be distracted.  It may be a place that inspires you to pray, or even a remote park bench during lunch time. During this special time, come before the Lord with a soft and honest heart. 

It is not His purpose to make you suffer through lifeless prayer. He will meet with you. As a matter of fact, He is waiting for you. The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords is waiting for you.

Prayer: Lord, help me to reflect and walk out the revelations You gave me during my time with You today.  Help me to pray unto You because I truly desire to be near You and to hear Your heartbeat. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 5-6

February 7, Friday

Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on March 14, 2013.

 

Devotional Thought for This Morning 

“A Teachable Heart”

Psalm 25:4-9 (ESV)

Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.  5 Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. 6 Remember, Lord, your great mercy and love, for they are from of old. 7 Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good. 8 Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. 9 He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. 

One of the characteristics of humility is a teachable heart (i.e., spirit).  If you have been a believer for a long time, it is easy to fall under the assumption that you already know all there is to know about God and His ways.  When this happens, we stop hungering for the Holy Spirit’s illumination of Scripture and no longer seek his guidance. This is a sure recipe for spiritual stagnation and being entrapped by unrecognized sin.  

Like David, we need to come before God with a childlike faith that asks to be taught and to be guided in the path of righteousness.  We also need to ask God to search our hearts to see if there is any sin that is hidden from our own eyes. Only when we lay ourselves completely transparent before God can we expect to benefit from his great mercy and love.  As we go through this spiritual “exercise” with humility, we can be confident that God will remember us while forgetting our sin since his son Jesus already died for it. 

Ask the Holy Spirit to be your teacher and guide, revealing hidden areas of sin in your thought, attitudes, and actions.   Reflect on the goodness of God who guides you lovingly and holds no sin against us.  

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I believe Your word is like a lamp unto my feet.  Give me the courage and wisdom to follow the path that Your word clearly lays out before me.  Help me to stand firm in Your truth and to grow in my obedience daily.  

Bible Reading for Today:  Isaiah 4


Lunch Break Study

Read James 1:23-24 (ESV): 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.

Questions to Consider

  1. What metaphor is used for God’s word and what is its significance?    
  2. What are some reasons why we remain inactive as we hear the preaching of God’s word?
  3. What blessings do we receive as we act upon what we hear?  (Matthew 7:25) 

Note

  1. The word of God is described as a mirror.  In ancient literature, the mirror was not only depicted as something used to adorn oneself but a tool to be used for a person’s moral development.      
  2. There are several reasons why we may not act upon God’s word.  First, we simply see it as being theory as opposed to impacting our reality.  Second, we only take a short glance at it and never see what it truly means. Third, we ignore it completely and deem it irrelevant and outdated.   These are common mistakes all too frequently committed in the contemporary church.  
  3. Jesus makes it clear that those who hear his word and act upon them will be blessed with lives that cannot be destroyed by the unexpected storms of life.  Living out the word of God leads to a rock-solid foundation on which to build our marriages, families, and careers.    

Evening Reflection

Write down any new insight from your study of Scripture or a sermon you’ve heard recently.  Have you tried to apply these truths to your life in a practical manner?  

Have you been receptive to the sermons that you have heard lately?  Are you maintaining a posture of humility as you hear things that challenge your thoughts and actions?

February 6, Thursday

Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Barry Kang of Symphony Church in Boston, was originally posted on March 10, 2014.

 

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning

“What Do You Love?”

1 John 2:15-17 (ESV)

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Is this the same apostle who quoted Jesus who declared, “God so loved the world that He gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)?  How can we reconcile this apparent contradiction? Are we to love the world or not? Well, it depends on what we mean by the “world.” In John’s gospel, Jesus has in mind all the people whom the Father has created in His likeness.  However, in 1 John, the apostle is referencing the organized system of human civilization and activity that opposes God, and as a result, has been alienated from Him. This world is problematic because unlike God, it is dark and temporary. 

In one of John Ortberg’s books, When The Game Is Over, It All Goes Back In The Box, he recalls that moment when he finally beat his grandmother in a game of Monopoly.  Playing the game was fun, and winning it was even more exciting, but once it was over, all the game pieces had to be placed back into the box.  Ortberg was saying that if you love the game too much, empty feeling will be sure to follow. Apostle John reminds us of this same truth as he urges us not to love the world, or the things in the world, because “the world is passing away” (v.17).  I recall a pastor friend of mine who had a very expensive guitar that he treasured, but I was blown away when he decided to sell it and give the proceeds to his church’s building fund. This is a man who understood the difference between the temporary and the eternal!  

Is your first priority in life the things that are eternal, or are they the things that are passing away?  If they are temporary things, let us surrender them to God and ask that we would grow to love our eternal God more and more.

Prayer: Father, thank You for your promise of eternal life.  Help me to have the right perspective. So often the things that I am investing in are the temporary rather than the eternal.  Help me to love and fix my focus upon that which is eternal. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 3


Lunch Break Study  

Read Luke 12:13-21: Someone in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me.” 14 But He said to him, “Man, who appointed Me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 Then He said to them, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.” 16 And He told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man was very productive. 17 And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ 18 Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’ 21 So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the request brought to Jesus in this passage?  Is there anything wrong with the request itself?  
  2. How does Jesus immediately respond this man? Why does he respond this way?
  3. What is the main point of the parable? 
  4. Take a moment and ask yourself honestly, how many of my prayer requests are born from a desire for earthly gain?

Notes

  1. A man asks Jesus to use His authority to tell his brother to share the [family] inheritance. On the surface, aside from being fairly childish, there doesn’t seem to be anything inherently sinful about the request. 
  2. Jesus responds with a question, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” Jesus’ response may seem unloving, as if He were saying, “I don’t want to deal with your problem. I’m not going to waste my time being a judge over your inheritance.”  But in reality, Jesus is saying, “I want to deal with your real problem. I’m not your judge; I am your inheritance.”  The real problem that Jesus identifies is covetousness; that is, materialism
  3. The main point of the parable is quite clear: The purpose of life is not to accumulate material possessions, rather the purpose of material possessions is to accumulate eternal rewards.
  4. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Does covetousness make it difficult for you to love others?  How can you use the resources that God has given you to help bring others into the Kingdom?

February 5, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning

“The MVP We Need”

Psalm 121:1-4 

For I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

When I was in third grade, one of my class’s favorite recess games was Capture the Flag. I was not particularly good at this game, but you know who was? One of my friends, C, who was a Little League baseball star.  He was unbeatable: Whenever he captured the opposing team’s flag, he speedily ran back to his side. Other kids half-heartedly gave chase whenever he ran, because that’s how capable he was compared to the rest of us. Whenever I was the team captain, who did I pick first to be on my team? C, all the way. Having him on my team was an assured victory.The psalmist asks himself who he looks to for help and deliverance. In third grade, I would have looked at my friend to lead our team to victory. But who do I look to on a daily basis for my help? Unfortunately, in my reflection, I find that I often turn first towards the following non-God entities before recognizing that God is my help:

  • Physical strength: The first thing I gauge every morning is whether I am tired. If I am full of energy, I trust that my own stamina, willpower, and happiness to carry me through. 
  • Intellect: When presented with a problem, I launch into a problem-solving mode. I scan through my memory for any similar situations. I often decide that, as long as I concentrate and think about it a little harder, a solution will come to me. 
  • Other people: I rely on the abilities or influence of others to assure me that things will work out. At work, I think about who can advocate for me or will turn to their connections on my behalf if I need something. 

Today, I encourage you to take a look inside to discover who your eyes turn towards. Is it other people? Maybe yourself? (Or, perhaps, you are seeking the Lord first for guidance and strengthening – press on!). The Lord, who loves us, who created the heavens and the earth, who will never tire from doing good and who is always attentive, can be and should be our help. The Psalmist is wise to see that God is the only and best source to receive help from.

Many of us know this truth, but a reflection into our tendencies will reveal who we really turn to first. Let us ask God to give us humility and grace to remember that He is the only One who is worthy of our trust. We are foolish if we trust primarily in our abilities and those of others. Let us train ourselves to seek Him first for help and to see how He will sustain and lead us through all trouble. 

Prayer: Father, I know that You are my greatest help. I confess that I look at other people and myself for the strength and wisdom that I need. Teach me to turn to You first and find that You the One I need. Help me to not trust in my own understanding and ways but rather lean on You to reveal and provide all I need. 

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 2


Lunch Break Study

Read Job 37:5-13: God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. 6 For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour. 7 He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it.8 Then the beasts go into their lairs, and remain in their dens.9 From its chamber comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds.10 By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. 11 He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning.12 They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. 13 Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.

Questions to Consider

  1. The context for this chapter is that Elihu speaks to Job and his friends about God. What happenings on earth are attributable to God?
  2. From Elihu’s words, what attributes of God can we understand?
  3. Let’s take time to consider the numerous works and actions of God that have surrounded you today (from the world you woke up to or circumstances in life). Spend time praising Him for His hand in all things and remembering how active He is in our world.

Notes

  1. This passage says that many natural phenomena are attributed to God. He dictates snow, rain, lightning. He also dictates our success/progress in work and even affects where animals dwell. 
  2. Much of this passage revolves around God’s vast power and majesty. The reminder that God commands the precipitation and lightning as well as the fact that it is from His hand whether we progress in our work reminds us that He is almighty God. But God does not wield that power aimlessly. He is intentional, desiring to accomplish correction and to show love to His creation in all things.
  3. Personal reflection

Evening Reflection

How was your time today? Did you notice the option to turn towards God or to turn to yourself more? Let’s ask Him to cultivate a greater dependence on Him and ask Him to show us tomorrow how we will find exactly what we need when we approach Him first.

February 4, Tuesday

The AMI QT Devotionals from February 4-5 (new) are provided by Christine Li, who serves as a deaconess at Remnant Church in Manhattan, New York.


Devotional Thoughts for This Morning

The Key to Unity”

Ephesians 4:1-6 

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

I used to hold a personal theory called the Transitive Property of Friendship (from the geometric principle that if A = B, and B = C, then one can confidently conclude that A = C). My reasoning went as such: If I had a deep friendship with Person A, and I had a deep friendship with Person C, then Person A and Person C could surely become good friends. On a very ideal level, it sounded right that everybody (especially in the family of God) would get along. But over the years, I have found that not all my friends become friends with each other, nor am I always close with those my friends love and cherish.

The problem with my theory was not that I failed to account for personality differences or how we sin against each other. The problem with this theory is that I relied on the wrong bridge (myself) to join people together. Scripture tells this too: The bond of peace arises (and should be sought) through the Spirit of God. Because His Spirit lives in us and permeates all things, there can be a harmony and unity among all parts.unity does not come solely from my (or yours, or our pastors’) abilities to build relationships. Instead, we look to our God, who is the One most experienced in establishing “impossible” relationships. If He could make peace between holy God and fallen mankind, then surely His Spirit can create or restore relations with one another. 

If you are a believer, then the peace that Christ secured is not a dispassionate co-existence with Him. And if you have seen that God has made a way for an active and rewarding relationship with Him, then I want to encourage you not to settle in your idea of maintaining peace with others.

Would you consider moving towards someone in your church today to maintain and build unity? It could be someone with whom you have little in common; maybe someone that would require a supernatural love on your part to build a relationship with. Rather than counting differences to start, we can begin by counting our similarities: shared identity, shared hope, and shared mission. Let’s ask for the opportunity to demonstrate the incredible peace of God and let it be reflected in our lives and our communities.

Prayer: God, thank You for loving us! You made a peace.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 1


Lunch Break Study

Read Philemon 1:10-20 I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. 12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord. 17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the purpose of Paul’s letter to Philemon here? 
  2. What is the benefit to Paul to advocate on behalf of Onesimus?
  3. What kinds of relationships does Paul mention here? Why are they significant?

Notes

  1. Paul is advocating on behalf of Onesimus, who has been separated (likely voluntarily) from Philemon, his master. Paul is asking Philemon to accept Onesimus back. He also charges any losses that Philemon incurred because of Onesimus to himself personally.
  2. Paul mentions that he would regard Philemon’s acceptance of Onesimus as a reason why he would be refreshed in Christ. In short, Paul would rejoice in the Lord and would find this spiritually refreshing if Philemon were to do so.
  3. Paul uses the following terms: “son” (v.10), “man” (v.16), “better than a slave, as a dear brother” (v.16). No matter Onesimus’ previous relationship with Philemon, their history has been replaced with the reality of new spiritual identity. Onesimus has become Paul’s son, and he is now Philemon’s brother. This reminds us that our own experience and history of relating to one another cannot compare to the new names and identities that Christ bestows. Faith in Christ is the ultimate leveler of status and the deciding factor for our love.

Evening Reflection

Take some time to think about today’s topic. Is there someone God has put on your heart to seek out? Let’s ask Him for the strength and commitment to follow through and to surrender our expectations to Him. This is a work in progress – let’s ask God to remind us what is possible in our community when we rely on His Spirit to unify us.

February 3, Monday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by the then (2013) staff of Remnant Westside Church in Manhattan, was first posted on September 12, 2013.

 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Worshiping the Lord Wherever I Am”

Psalm 87:1-3

On the holy mount stands the city he founded; 2 the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob. 3 Glorious things of you are spoken, O city of God. Selah

In the Old Testament times, Jerusalem played a significant role, for the temple of God resided in this city. Also, many of the kings of Israel ruled from this city, making it the center of Judah. People would make pilgrimages here, sometimes annually. It is not a far stretch to say that it played a central role for the people of Israel. Yet, more than the role it played in the lives of the people, what we see is the psalmist pointing to God’s heart for this city. The physical Jerusalem pointed to the spiritual Zion, which was a place of God’s presence; this was where God met and revealed Himself to His people.  For the psalmist, his love for Jerusalem overflowed from God’s delight for the city. This was the place where God established his temple as a place of worship and encounter with God for the people. 

For us who are in Christ, we know that wherever we may be and whenever the time, we always have access to God (Rom. 5:1). Through Jesus, as seen in the story of the Samaritan woman at the well, there is a paradigm shift from worshiping the Lord at the temple, to worshiping him in spirit and in truth.  As the psalmist exalts Jerusalem because of the Lord’s delight to meet with his people in that city, it is an encouragement to for us to delight in the Lord in worship whether it be in our cubicles, classrooms, our apartments, or the city God has placed us in, because these are places to encounter and worship God. 

This morning, God is reminding you of how glorious it is to be in a place where his presence can be made manifest. He is calling you to encounter and worship Him in the place where He founded and delights in. Just as the physical Jerusalem pointed to Zion, the spiritual reality, where you are, here and now, can be a place where the spiritual reality of God can be established.

Prayer: Dear God, no matter where I am today, remind me to worship You.  Whether loudly or quietly may I shout or whisper my expression of gratitude unto You in response to Your amazing grace expressed in Your Son Christ.  Amen.    

Bible Reading for Today: Romans 16


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 2:5-7: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

Paul continues to address matters of the mind and attitude, culminating in this exhortation to have the mind of Christ.

By the way, because verses 5-11 have a poetic quality to them, many scholars believe that it was an early hymn. For this reason, many translations (including NIV and NLT but not ESV) set it in an indented text.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the relationship between the mind of God and the incarnation of Christ?
  2. What do we often forget when only the fact that our salvation in Christ is totally free is stressed?
  3. What does “he emptied himself” imply?

Notes

  1. The mind of Christ (v.5) led to this radical change of Christ’s relationship to the world. He was in very nature God (v.6), yet took up the form of a servant (v.7).
  2. Sometimes, we get so enamored by the fact that our salvation in Christ is totally free that we fail to acknowledge how costly it was to God—the price He paid to redeem us is incalculable.
  3. He “emptied himself” refers to this idea that Christ was entirely poured out or spent in this process of taking the form of a servant.

Evening Reflection

Psalm 16:11: “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Lord, how you desire that I experience and enjoy your glory! You want me to enter your gates with thanksgiving (which means that I have been invited) and to come into your courts with praise.  Just as you gave Moses the privilege to access your presence, I have the same promise, for you have said, “In your presence is fullness of joy!”

God, I will not live in a pessimistic, cynical, and defeatist attitude, despairing over this world. You invite me to fellowship with you, whether it be working on perplexing challenges or in loving others, I am encouraged that I can do it with you, for you have said that I can accomplish great things in you, and I will!  You invite me to sit at your right hand where there are lasting pleasures, and to begin living this moment in my true identity as your child.