August 8, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on February 1, 2015.6

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Don’t be Eager to be Used by God”

Lk. 6:39-40 (ESV)

“He also told them a parable: ‘Can a blind man lead a blind man?  Will they not both fall into a pit? [40] A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.’”

The seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were really impressed with Paul when he drove out evil spirits.  So, upon seeing a “man who had the evil spirit” (Acts 19:15), they said, “In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out” (13).  The evil spirit, instead of coming out, retorted, “’Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?’  Then the man who had the evil spirit . . . . gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding” (15-6).  What happened?  Without being fully trained and presuming their vision to be 20/20, Sceva’s sons tried to lead a “blind man”; the result was disastrous.  

Many of us want to take on a bigger assignment from God, but consider the events in Paul’s life.  Soon after his conversion, Paul became aware that he was God’s “chosen instrument to carry [His] name before the Gentiles and their kings” (9:15).   Being a competitive and zealous person (Gal. 1:14), Paul might’ve thought that this international ministry was going to start right away.  But God had other plans: Paul spent the next three years mostly in Arabia (17) where God trained him for ministry in isolation from everyone.   Then he went to Jerusalem where he spoke “boldly in the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:29), but the Jews there “tried to kill him” (29).  So, the church leaders had him return home to Tarsus (350 miles) and stay there until the situation calmed down.  But, by the time Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Paul and bring him to Antioch (11:25-6), which, in time, would launch his international ministry, he had waited 8 years in anonymity.  During those years, instead of looking ahead for his big break, Paul was training hard while no one was looking; he was learning to be “faithful with a few things” (Matt. 25:23).  

Don’t be eager to be used by God; if He wants to use you, He will find you.  In the meantime, submit to God’s training so that when He calls, you are ready to serve God in total dependence upon Him.  

Prayer: God, I magnify You this morning.  Since I take my job (or study) seriously, I put all my energy to get better, but I don’t put the same effort in serving You.  Often, I just show up without any preparation.  Forgive me for this arrogance.  Help me to change so that I may render a service that is worthy of You.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Kings 1


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Cor. 11:1 (NASB): “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”

2 Thess. 3:6-9 (ESV):Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. [7] For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, [8] nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. [9] It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate.”

Heb. 13:7 (ESV): “Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”

Question to Consider

1. What is the best and most effective way to be trained for ministry at any level?

2. What’s the most difficult aspect about people looking to you for modeling?

3. What was Paul’s concern in relation to the Thessalonians who erroneously believed that the coming of Jesus already happened or was imminent (2 Thess. 2:1-2)?What are some areas where you need training?

Notes

1. All three passages have this in common as to the best way to be trained: first, be observant of a tangible model of individuals who demonstrate the character and the ways of Christ; two, imitate their ways.  We are also to be motivated by the final outcome of people who have maintained a consistent walk with God. 

2. The most difficult aspect is being consistent with what I say and what I actually do.  It would be hard to be a model for anyone if I live lazily after teaching people that they should be industrious.  

3. Paul was concerned that several Thessalonians had stopped working on account that the world was about to end (i.e., the 2nd coming of Christ).  So Paul reminded them about his example of how he was working to support himself.  Are you working hard or always looking for short-cuts?  Imitate Paul as he imitated Christ. 


Evening Reflection

God trains us through many ways, formal education being one.  But the most impactful way is through trials and errors that He allows in our lives.  What are some ways that God trained you today?  What did you learn about the Lord and about yourself?  Take a pause and reflect.  “Consider it pure joy . . . whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). 

August 7, Sunday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by Pastor David Kwon of Journey Community Church in Raleigh, was originally posted on November 29, 2015.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (B.S.) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Above All Else, Stay Humble”

Esther 5:9-14 

And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai. [10] Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home, and he sent and brought his friends and his wife Zeresh. [11] And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king. [12] Then Haman said, “Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. [13] Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” [14] Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it. Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.” This idea pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”  ― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

As we have been reading the story of Esther, one of the most pivotal characters in the story is Mordecai.  He was the one who raised Esther, and he was there for her to give advice in the face of evil.  There are many adjectives we can use to describe him, but one characteristic that stands out is—his humility. He was never impressed by the riches of royalty or desired to take any credit for Esther’s plan to expose Haman, but rather, we see a man who sincerely wanted to obey the Lord and to honor God by doing what was right.   He completely understood the providence of God and his potential role in it if he remained faithful.  Anyone in his position could have taken the glory for his plan to thwart Haman, but rather, he seemed to always respond in humble obedience.

Haman, on the other hand, was a man who was full of himself and consumed with pride. And he thought that he had won both the king and the queen to his side for his plan to annihilate the Jewish people.  Haman was right in his own eyes, and he also demanded respect from the people who were under him (v.9).   

This is an important lesson for us because God always opposes the proud and exalts the humble.  The apostle Peter would also make note of this principle: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (1 Peter 5:6).  How are you doing in the area of humility?  C.S. Lewis says it best: “As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on thing and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you” (Mere Christianity).

One practical way we can grow in the area of humility is by fearing the Lord. Fearing is not an unhealthy emotion, like being scared; but rather it is being in a state of awe and wonder.  It starts with worship and seeing God for who He is.  So this morning, spend time in worship.  As we do, we will decrease and He will increase.

Prayer:  Lord, I want to be a person who walks in humility.  Help me to overcome areas of pride by being in awe of You.  You are the only one worthy of my worship and praise.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 24

August 6, Saturday

REPOST Today’s AMI Devotional Thought, first posted on August 22, 2015, is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee.  He is a friend of AMI who in the past has served as a staff at several AMI churches.  He is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Cairn University (MA).

Spiritual Food for Thought for This Weekend

“Consistently Good, Fair and Just”

2 Kings 10:10-11

Know then that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for the Lord has done what he said by his servant Elijah.” 11 So Jehu struck down all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, all his great men and his close friends and his priests, until he left him none remaining.

Most parenting experts will tell you that when it comes disciplining our children, the most important thing is to be consistent.  Inconsistency is why I might be the worst parent in the world.  I have two year old boy-girl twins, Jon and Abbie.  My wife and I joke that Jon is “not smart enough to punish.”  For example, if we send Abbie to her room for ill behavior, she cries knowing she’s being punished.  But when we send Jonny in there, he smiles and laughs. (I think he thinks we are playing hide-and-seek.)  At nap time (they share a room), we tell them both to stay in bed, and if they get out they are going to get punished.  Whenever I go in their room because I hear mischief, Abbie is always in her bed, while Jon is always out.  Don’t get me wrong, they are both being troublemakers, but Abbie knows, at least, to stay in bed.  When I tell Jon that he needs to be punished, he looks at me like, “What did I do?”  And when I tell them it is time to get spanked, Abbie runs away in fear, while Jon runs toward me smiling and laughing as if I am going to read him a book.  The truth of the matter is that I find Jon really cute, and when he looks at me and smiles with that blank look on his face, many times, I cannot bring myself to punish that guy (inconsistency).  In my heart of hearts, punishing the lad is not what I want to do.  But I know that good parenting involves disciplining our children, and teaching them that there are consequences for their actions.  

While going through the narrative history of Israel, eventually, we would have to broach the topic of punishment.  Make no mistake about it, Jehu was the Lord’s agent of punishment and judgment on the house of Ahab.  Ahab and Jezebel’s alliance was wicked; as individuals, they were wicked, and as a household they led Israel into further idolatry and evil action.  Their deeds deserved to be punished.  I think when reading the Bible, we often mistake patience with inconsistency.  God is patient, but I wouldn’t say He is inconsistent.  In fact, part of God’s immutable nature is that He remains at all times consistently good, fair, and just.  And when God says that He is going to punish evil, you can be sure that He is not inconsistent like human parents.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to see that justice and discipline are as much a part of Your character as grace and forgiveness. Help me to trust in Your hand even if the results are difficult to understand or terrifying.  Help me to know that You are always good and always sovereign.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 22-23

August 5, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on February 13, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“A Lousy, Terrible Closer”

Matt. 12:43-5 (NIV)

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. [44] Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. [45] Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

It’s the job you’ve always wanted, and you thank the Lord for it.  However, after 3 years of the daily grind of meetings, conference calls and business trips, often skipping church on Sundays, you can hardly remember the last time you have prayed or opened the Bible.   The present condition is worse than the first!

The life of King Joash began quite inauspiciously.  His father, King Ahaziah of Judah, and mother were murdered soon after his birth; then, his grandmother Athaliah “proceeded to destroy the whole royal family” (2 Chron. 22:10) so that she could rule Judah.  Fortunately, someone rescued Joash and hid him at the temple for 6 years.  Imagine that—six years of not seeing the sunlight! But the tide of life turned in Joash’s favor when Jehoiada the priest, after successfully ousting Athaliah, made him the king; he was seven years old.  And despite the sad and painful past, Joash, under the guidance of Jehoiada, “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD” (24:2), which included repairing the temple. 

However, everything changed after Jehoiada died.  Joash, after heeding bad advice, “abandoned the temple of the LORD . . . and worshiped . . . idols” (18).  When Zechariah, the son of his mentor Jehoiada, spoke out, Joash, “not remember[ing] the kindness . . . Jehoiada had shown him” (22), killed him.   Consequently, “because Judah had forsaken the LORD,. . . judgment was executed on Joash” (24).  Not only was Judah defeated and looted by Aram, Joash was severely wounded as well.  What did him in were his officials who “killed him in his bed” (25). The final condition of Joash was worse than the first. In modern vernacular, Joash was a lousy, terrible closer.

Today’s parable actually had Israel in mind (Matt. 12:38-43).  After comparing Israel’s unresponsiveness to His message to the responsiveness of the Ninevites to Jonah’s preaching, Jesus was underscoring the worsened condition of Israel’s heart. How can we ensure that this doesn’t happen to us?  For starters, don’t leave your heart and mind unoccupied: Fill your heart with gratefulness (Heb. 12:28 ESV) and humility (1 Pet. 5:6); fill your mind with the knowledge of God’s word (Heb. 4:6).  

Prayer: Dear Lord, I confess that I often do nothing about my declining spiritual life because to address it would mean having less time making money and doing the things that I enjoy.  God, I don’t want to hit rock bottom spiritually; there is nothing good there.  Help me to get serious about my spiritual life.  Fill me with the Spirit.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 21

Lunch Break Study

Read 2 Pet. 2:20-22 (ESV): For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. [21] For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. [22] What the true proverb says has happened to them: ‘The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.’”

2 Cor. 13:5 (ESV): “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

Rev. 2:4-5 (NASB): “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. [5] Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent.”

Question to Consider

  1. What concerns Peter?  Why do you think that once the downward spiritual spiral is set off, the eventual condition often becomes worse than the initial condition?
  2. What does Paul suggest that we do to keep us from the downward spiritual spiral?  How do we do this?
  3. What should we do once we realize what is causing us to be distant from God?

Notes

  1. He had the same concern that Christ had: thelater state becoming worse than the former.
  2. Living the Christian life is not easy when temptations lurk everywhere.  Anytime Christians sin rather ostentatiously, some probably expect divine punishment.  When that doesn’t happen, they become emboldened to push the envelope.  And once the devil, who always looks for someone (especially Christians) to devour (1 Pet. 5:8) is added to the mix, it can get exponentially worse.
  3. Paul recommends self-spiritual examination.   How?  I think we need to be honest about ourselves in the following areas: time spent praying, reading the word, offering, participating in church’s spiritual activities, etc.  Some criteria are a matter of the heart: Do I really love God?  Am I really dependent on Him? Do I even think about God? Do I truly believe in God?” Once we realize what or who is causing our downward spiritual spiral, God expects us to repent; that is, turn from the situation or person responsible for aiding and abetting our downward spiral.  Example: When we got married in 1987, we had an old black and white television set, and just about the only show we watched was Honeymooners that came on at 11:30 PM.  But, once we realized how that habit was affecting our getting up in the morning (and our time with God), we decided to get rid of it.

Evening Reflection

Based on how you lived today (what you did, who you hung around with, what you said), examine your spiritual life.  Do you need changes?  In what areas?  Giving?  Character?  Spending?  Viewing habit?  Forgiveness?  Desire?  Relationship?  Figure it out and work

August 4, Thursday

REPOSTToday’s AMI Devotional QT, provided by Cami King, now a friend of AMI,  was first posted on August 14, 2015.  Cami served faithfully as a staff at several AMI churches in the past.  

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Stick-to-itiveness”

2 Kings 7:3-8

Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, “Why do we sit here until we die? 4 If we say, ‘We will enter the city,’ then the famine is in the city and we will die there; and if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us go over to the camp of the Arameans. If they spare us, we will live; and if they kill us, we will but die.” 5 They arose at twilight to go to the camp of the Arameans; when they came to the outskirts of the camp of the Arameans, behold, there was no one there. 6 For the Lord had caused the army of the Arameans to hear a sound of chariots and a sound of horses, even the sound of a great army, so that they said to one another, “Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians, to come upon us.” 7 Therefore they arose and fled in the twilight, and left their tents and their horses and their donkeys, even the camp just as it was, and fled for their life. 8 When these lepers came to the outskirts of the camp, they entered one tent and ate and drank, and carried from there silver and gold and clothes, and went and hidthem; and they returned and entered another tent and carried from there also, and went and hid them.

It takes a special kind of person to keep on fighting with his back against a wall. When I stop to reflect on the lives of the younger and the older folks in my life, one of the greatest differences I see between the generations coming after me and those that came before me is a level of stick-to-itiveness that kept the latter in the fight when all the signs pointed to defeat.

For the men in our story today, life had dealt a pretty awful hand. For starters, they were lepers – terminally ill and perpetually unclean. They were also living in what scholars consider to be one of the darkest times in Israel’s history. As we’ve been reading together through Kings, things just aren’t going so well for God’s people. And to top it all off, they were in the middle of a famine. Verse 4 lists the options of these lepers as: (1) stay and die, (2) enter the city and die, (3) go to the enemies camp and likely die, but maybe not (if they show mercy).  Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place. 

But in response to a less than desirable situation they declare, “Why do we sit here until we die?” In other words – they keep at it, keep pushing, keep hoping. And not just in their hearts – they take practical steps of hope in their difficult situation, leaving room for God to move in ways that only He can. 

One of the things I find myself fighting against most these days is the tendency to give up when the going gets tough. Too often we get to a place where things are not how we thought they’d be or how we feel they should be, we are miserable and unhappy, and we find ourselves in what we imagine any rational person would describe as a hopeless situation. It is in these moments that many of us (pardon my vernacular) simply punk out on God. We give up and check out. We pout and sulk and rage and complain. We do anything but hope. 

Yet these are precisely the places where God does His best work. These are the times when His glory is most clearly displayed in our lives. If we continue to hope and take steps of faith, we create room for God to do the amazing things that far exceed our imagination, as He makes good on His promised faithfulness to us. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to press on when the going gets tough. Give me the stamina of heart to continue to hope when all signs point to a hopeless situation. Help me to position myself to see Your glory displayed in my life in ways that far exceed what I could ask, think, or imagine.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 20


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 3:14-21: For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom [every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.  20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why is it important that God strengthens us “according to the riches of His glory”?
  2. How might verse 20 be an encouragement to believers in seemingly hopeless situations? 
  3. How can we position ourselves to allow God’s glory to shine in us (the church) when it comes to difficult circumstances? 

Notes

  1. The Christian life requires a lot of strength, but it’s not the kind of strength that we can muster up on our own. It is the kind of supernatural strength that flows directly from the storehouses of heaven, from the very being of God Himself. 
  2. There is no such thing as a hopeless situation because God can do more than what we might ask or even think. The only place of hopelessness is apart from Him and His work in the world. Furthermore, God’s power is at work within our very being– so we ourselves are stronger and more resilient than we often think. This should bring us great encouragement.  
  3. We can position ourselves to display God’s glory in tough times by standing firm with God – keeping hope alive and pressing on in faithful obedience. In so doing, we make ourselves available vessels to the power of the Holy Spirit and become witnesses to his glory displayed in our lives. 

Evening Reflection

What if the lepers from our passage for this morning had not gone to the enemy’s camp? What if they’d believed their situation was truly hopeless and thrown in the towel and resigned themselves to just sit there until death came? They would have missed the salvation of the Lord – not only for themselves but also for their entire nation. What are the seemingly hopeless situations in your life? How are you handling them – with hope or with defeat? Who stands to be blessed and experience God’s glory in your life by your willingness to press on when the going gets tough? Spend some time reflecting on these things. Pray and ask the Lord to give you a heart that truly (and practically) hopes in Him – regardless of the circumstance. 

August 3, Wednesday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on February 4, 2015

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“‘When Bad Things Happen to Good People . . .’ Really?”  

Lk. 10:30 (NIV)

“In reply Jesus said:  ‘A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers.  They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.’” 

Matt. 7:24-6 (NIV)

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

In 1981, Rabbi Harold Kushner, after tragically losing a young son, wrote a book entitled, When Bad Things Happen to Good People.  If some preachers were to write a book based on Luke 10:30, they would name it, When Bad Things Happen to Bad People.  Noting that the man in the parable went from Jerusalem, the city of God, to the pagan city of Jericho, which was cursed by Joshua (Joshua 6:26), many preachers have said that he was being punished for rebelling against God. 

 “Bobby” who was in my youth group in the early 1980s would have agreed with that conclusion.  After a teaching based on the wise and foolish builders, I had the students draw a picture to show what they’ve learned.  But when I saw Bobby’s drawing, it dawned on me that many Christians think this way:  In the world according to Bobby, the natural disasters (rain, flood, and wind) in the parable struck only the house built on the sand (i.e., “bad Christians”), but the house built on the rock (i.e., “good Christians”) was completely spared.  

The first time I really felt how illusory Bobby’s world was when my sister-in-law died of cancer at the age of 32; she left behind two small children.  The second time was when my brother-in-law also died of cancer at 43; he, too, left behind two small children.   Both were believers.   And I didn’t find much solace in Kushner’s words: “I can worship a God who hates suffering but cannot eliminate it, more easily than I can worship a God who chooses to make children suffer, for whatever exalted reason.”  But I felt that you should let the grieving parent mourn, while you bite your tongue and speak not.  Elihu bit his while listening to Job defend himself against his misguided friends, saying, “It profits a man nothing when he tries to please God” (34:9), until he could bear no more. 

Job was wrong.  So was the rabbi.  At no time did God fail to be good and all-powerful.  Living in a fallen world, we’re grateful for the life that God has given us—mostly good things, but some bad—until we are called home.  Ultimately, we bite our tongue before a God who let his Son suffer so that we might live.    

Prayer: Lord, I praise You for the life that You have given me.  While I complain when misfortunes come my way,  ultimately, I am thankful that these are golden opportunities for me to realize how good I really have it, especially living in the West.  This is all due to your unmerited favor. Help to live for You.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 19


Lunch Break Study

Read Jn. 5:14 (NASB): “Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.’”

Ps. 103:8-10 (ESV): “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. [9] He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. [10] He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.”

Job 38:1-5 (ESV): “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: [2] ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? [3] Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. [4] Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. [5] Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it?’”

Question to Consider

1. Can sin cause sickness?  If yes, give some examples.

2. Does sin always causes calamities in life?  Why or why not?

3. Based on Job 38:1-5 (38-42), what is God saying to Job?  What would God say to Rabbi Kushner? What would He say to you the next time you complain about God because of something bad that has happened?

Notes

1. Yes it can, but not always (Jn. 9:3: “Neither his man nor his parents sinned”).  My brother-in-law died of lung cancer even though he never smoked, but things like drinking and smoking can shorten the average life span.   An example would be many deaths resulting from drunken driving.

2. We never fully get the full consequences of our sins because God is always merciful.  This is why complaining to God when bad things happen in our lives is a form of ungratefulness.  But we are all too human and God allows us to pout—we see this in psalms.  My favorite: “Awake , O Lord!  Why do you sleep?  Rouse yourself!” (Ps. 44:23).

3. God is saying, “Don’t forget that I am the Creator, but you’re a creature with many limitations.  You don’t understand everything that is going around you because of your finiteness.   Harold, I grieve with you over your son (Jn. 11:35) and because of your loss of confidence in me.  Believe in my Son Jesus; I let him suffer so that you might live.”  


Evening Reflection

Did anything happen today that caused you to question God’s goodness or His power even for a moment?  It happens!  But let’s regroup before turning in; reflect on what God said to Job; and dwell on His infiniteness, while being very personal.  He can be trusted.  Proof?  A suffering Messiah Jesus.  Pray.

August 2, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Jabez Yeo, now a friend of AMI, was first posted on May 20, 2015.  He is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (B.S.) and Columbia International University where he studied Islam (M.A.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Do Not Put the Cart Before the Horse”

Luke 19:2-19

“And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  

As someone who works in business, it is a daily battle to fight the negative perceptions of my field and remember that everything can be done for Christ (Col. 3:17), including what goes on in the market place. In fact, business can bring great glory to God when it is used to bless the poor through the increase of living standards. Witnessing firsthand how initiatives such as microfinance and small business development have blessed others has played a substantial role in my conviction to use business as an avenue for missions.

Thankfully, Zacchaeus’ life serves as a personal reminder to not put the cart before the horse. While any industry can bring physical blessings, only Jesus can truly change lives. No economic incentive could have convinced Zacchaeus to pay back four times what he stole. Similarly, no medical missionary can completely heal one’s spirit and no lawyer’s advocacy against human trafficking can prevent it from happening again. It is only when people welcome Jesus into their homes and their hearts that true transformation occurs; just as it did for Zacchaeus.

Sadly, many people do not even have the chance to hear about Jesus. According to the Joshua Project, there are about 17,000 people groups around the world. About 7,000 of them are considered “unreached”; which means that there is no indigenous church with enough resources to evangelize to them. Even if a dedicated team was sent daily to a different unreached people group, it would take 18 years before all the people groups could have a chance to hear about Christ.

Paul clearly wrote:  “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Rom. 10:14-15).

Let’s pray for God to send His workers into the harvest today (Matt. 9:38).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You for changing my heart and my life. Only You can bring about true transformation. Thank You for using people in my life to bring me to You, and I pray that You may do the same for others, especially those who have never heard of Your name before. Wherever you send me, help me to share with others Your love and the joy of knowing You. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 18


Lunch Break Study

Read John 2:24: But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people.

Jeremiah17: 9: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Mark 7:20-3: And [Jesus] said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

2 Cor. 1:21-2: And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, 22 and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

Heb. 12:1-2b: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Questions to Consider

1. Why do you suppose Jesus wouldn’t entrust Himself to men?

2. We get surprised when some well-known pastors fall.  While that is really sad and shocking, would that come as a surprise to the Lord?  What does that say about our God?

3. How we do change?  How can we maintain that change, growing even deeper in our daily walk with the Lord?

Notes

1. Unlike the naiveté of social scientists, Jesus knew the corrupt constitution of men: at the core is found the vileness of self-centered, narcissistic, and deceptive human being who acts more like an instinct-driven animal.

2. We never catch God off-guard with our sins: He will never say, “I can’t believe you did that?”  To love is to “always trust, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Cor. 13:7); and that’s what He does! The fact that God loves us, fully knowing that we may fail Him one too many time, only underscores His amazing love for us.

3. Our hearts must change, and that only happens when the Holy Spirit enters our hearts upon believing in the Person and  the work of Christ.  In order to maintain the change and to grow even further in Christ, we must constantly fix our eyes on the Lord, which means we must take our eyes off on things such as, other man or woman, porn, your investment portfolio, GPA or body.  Get it?


Evening Reflection

As you wrap up this day, what would you say is the condition of your heart?  Is it full of self-centeredness and deception?  Repent.  Get right with God before going to sleep tonight.  Then tomorrow, boldly share the Gospel of Christ with someone in desperate need of it.

August 1, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on February 9, 2015

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“How Is Your Plan for Future”

Lk. 16:1-9 (NIV)

Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. [2] So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ [3] The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg— [4] I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ [5] So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ [6] ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’ [7] “Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ [8] The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. [9] I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”

Lk. 16:14 (ESV): “The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.”

This isn’t the type of illustration that pastors would dare to use from the pulpit.  There are several glaring character defects in this manger that no one should emulate. First, he is irresponsible, which got him in trouble with his master who lost money due to the manager’s negligence.   Second, he is a lazy freeloader.   About to lose his job, he is sure about one thing: “I’m going to neither dig (i.e., work) nor beg” (i.e., swallow my pride).  Third, he is a criminal.  Changing the numbers around in the accounting ledger so that the debtors appear to owe far less is no different from a desperate student sneaking into the registrar’s office to alter his grade: a reduction of olive oil by 450 gallons would’ve cost the master as much as $5,400 today.

Nevertheless, Jesus has the victim of this ruse commend his “dishonest manager” on account that he “acted shrewdly.”  I would be hard pressed to use this sort of example before a group of businessmen lest they think it is okay to do the same. 

Why, then, does Jesus opt for this parable?  Desperate times call for desperate measures, and this certainly was a desperate time.  The Pharisees, leaders whom God placed in Israel to lead the people spiritually, were too busy fattening their wallets and increasing their own prominence.  Jesus told this parable because of “the Pharisees who loved money” (16:14); they also “loved the most important seats in the synagogue” (11:44).  Consequently, people became “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mk. 6:34).

Thus, to shake up the Pharisees, Jesus elevates the very person whom they would condemn, and justifiably so, because this dishonest manager does one thing better than them: preparing for the future.   While the manager plans ahead to secure a better earthly future for himself, the Pharisees are doing nothing—like using their money to reach people for God (“use worldly wealth to gain friends”)—to secure a better heavenly future (“welcomed into eternal dwelling”) for themselves (e.g., God’s commendation, rewards).  So are you using your money to secure a better future in heaven?  It is never late; start today. 

Prayer: O God, keep my eyes open so that I never forget to see what this earthly life is for: to receive the blessings and talents You’ve reserved for me so that I can use them to reach more people for Jesus Christ.  Thank You that You would even reward me for giving a cup of cold water to someone in need.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 17

Lunch Break Study

Read Jer. 35:2, 6-8, 12-4, 19 (NIV): Go to the Rekabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the house of the Lord and give them wine to drink. . . . [6] But they replied, “We do not drink wine, because our forefather Jehonadab son of Rekab gave us this command: ‘Neither you nor your descendants must ever drink wine. [7] Also you must never build houses, sow seed or plant vineyards; you must never have any of these things, but must always live in tents. Then you will live a long time in the land where you are nomads.’ [8] We have obeyed everything our forefather Jehonadab son of Rekab commanded us. . . .” [12] Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying: [13] “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?’ declares the Lord. [14] ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab ordered his descendants not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me. . . .’” [19] “Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab will never fail to have a descendant to serve me.’

Prov. 6:6-9 (NIV): “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise ! [7] It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, [8] yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. [9] How long will you lie there, you sluggard?  When will you get up from your sleep?”

Question to Consider

  1. If there is something to be learned from a dishonest manager, then there certainly must be something we can learn from the Rekabite family?
  2. What are we to learn from ants?
  3. Can you think of anyone not necessarily admirable (group or even animal) from whom we can learn something positive?

Notes

  1. The Rekabites obeyed the words of their progenitor even though it restricted their desire (to drink wine) and freedom (live in a permanent housing).  God is saying: Obey me even if it hurts at first; inthe long run it will actually benefit you (the Rekabites were rewarded for their obedience).
  2. Learn from the ants these things: first, think about your future; second, anticipate needs; third make appropriate preparations now for your future needs.
  3. From the Mormons we can learn giving (even if they are swayed by wrong theology).  It is believed that they give 7.5 percent of their income; from the Jehovah’s Witnesses we can learn tireless sharing of faith door-to-door.  They are relentless in proclaiming their misguided message.

Evening Reflection

Based on how you spent your money today, are you a good investor in the spiritual realm?  Take a moment to reflect; ask God to help you not to love money but save and use it prudently.  Pray. 

July 31, Sunday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Christine Li, was first posted on January 31, 2015.  Christine, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, serves as a deaconess at Remnant Church in Manhattan, New York.  

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Worst Decision Ever: Asking Jesus to Leave”

Matthew 8:32

[Jesus] said to [the demons], “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they pleaded with Him to leave their region. 

In this recounting, Jesus drives demons out of two demon-possessed men who had been living among the tombs. Either by the demons’ choice or their own, these men were isolated from society due to their condition. Upon meeting them, Jesus frees them by sending the demons into a nearby herd of pigs (which promptly drowns), much to the shock of those tending the pigs.

What a tragedy it seems that, on the heels of a great miracle, the townspeople’s foremost reaction was to ask Jesus to leave.  This has to the worst decision ever!  Driving out the demons could have been a glorious display of God’s power; it could even have been a source for great joy for the town to be able to take the two men back home. However, thinking instead of the great costliness of losing those pigs, they did not welcome the work that Jesus was doing. They would have rather kept their pigs than the two restored men or even Jesus, who exhibited a power that had not been seen in generations. 

It would be so easy to shake our heads at the citizens and think about how much they missed out in turning Jesus away. But we are no better; we make similar decisions each day. We know that if we let Christ into our lives, He intends to drive out every sin that causes spiritual sickness. So we do not welcome Jesus into our lives as eagerly as we ought because we have a suspicion that He will want to change too many things. He might make us give up some things we want to have. He might even have us lose some material security that we hold onto tightly. 

With the hindsight of 2000 years since Jesus’ life, we know that the townspeople made a poor decision, choosing to lose out on the very presence of God incarnate. Let us pray that we will not have the same foolishness in our lives and that we will far prefer the changed life that He wants to give us. May we never turn Christ away from the gate in order to keep our pigpens. 

Prayer: Father, I know that if I were to bring my life under Your examination, I would surely fail Your standards. Perhaps that is why I do not ask You to search my heart more frequently. But, LORD, if You cleanse me, then I will be a thousand times more satisfied than if I keep You at arm’s length. Do what is best for me, LORD. Come into my life and heal me so that I may live for You. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 16

July 30, Saturday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Jabez Yeo, now a friend of AMI, was first posted on January 24, 2015.  

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Jesus Loves Me This I Know, for the Bible Tells Me So!”

Matt. 18:1-5 (NIV)

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ He called a little child to Him, and placed the child among them. And He said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in My name welcomes Me.’”

Karl Barth (1886-1968), a Swiss Reformed theologian, is regarded as one of the greatest Protestant theologians of the twentieth century. Though he grew up influenced by liberal theology, which was predominant in 19th-century European Protestantism, God eventually gave him a firm conviction about the victorious reality of Christ’s resurrection and this greatly influenced his theology. Out of this conviction emerged The Epistle to the Romans and Church Dogmatics; some of the most widely acclaimed theological works ever produced. Yet, when asked on a trip to America to summarize his many works, Barth replied “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so!”

Indeed, one of the many beautiful things about the gospel is that it is profound enough to study for one’s lifetime, but simple enough for a child to understand. And this fact is emphasized in this passage as Jesus instructs His disciples to become like little children, lest they find themselves outside the kingdom of heaven.                                                 

When we think of children, many character traits might come to our mind (especially for parents or babysitters), but one appropriate trait is this: vulnerability. Children are vulnerable because they are weaker (physically, spiritually, mentally, etc.) than adults, therefore, they are dependent on their parents (guardians) for their sustenance and survival. And they are vulnerable because of their innocent faith; rarely do children refrain from trusting others, even those whom they have just met. 

So when Jesus tells us to become like little children, He is instructing us to acknowledge our vulnerability—our limited strength and our dependence on God for everything we possess. In addition, Jesus is instructing us to have faith like that of a child—a faith that may question but not distrust our Abba father. Yet oftentimes, the blessings and resources we receive from God Himself prevent us from developing this child-like heart.  Whether we are AMI pastors, students or (un)employed professionals, we all depend on God for our daily bread. We are all beggars at His table of grace, and this truth alone helps us put Jesus’ instruction in perspective. 

So today, let’s come as children to the Almighty God, to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Let us remember who we truly are in His eyes, and thank Him for His provision in all things; His provision that works through our innate vulnerability and dependency.

Prayer: Abba. I thank You for choosing me and loving me before the foundation of the world. I thank You that I am Your beloved child, no matter where I am in my life. Help me to follow You as Your Son Jesus did. Help me to do nothing by myself but only what I see You doing, and to always remember my need for You. In Your Name, I pray, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 14-15