November 19, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI Devotional Thought—first posted on April 15, 2014—is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, 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).

Devotional Thought for the This Morning

“The Lost Art of Hospitality”

Gal 4:14

Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn.  Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. 

A friend of mine recently bought a new house, so when my family went over to visit for the first time, to make conversation, I asked, “So, have you gotten to meet your neighbors?  Do they seem cool?”  The wife, somewhat sadly, reported, “No, nobody has come to welcome us to the neighborhood.”  Her response and tone kind of made me giggle, so I followed up with, “What did you expect? Your neighbors to come over with a pie or cookies?” She responded, “Yeah, I guess a little, why not?”  To that, I jokingly responded, “Because we don’t live in the 1950’s, and June Cleaver doesn’t live next door.” (Leave it to Beaver, an old show; those who are young probably won’t get the reference.) 

Hospitality is kind of a lost art in our day and age, isn’t it?  It’s ironic because the hot trend in housing is the huge designer kitchen that opens seamlessly into the dining and living rooms for entertaining purposes, yet nobody entertains.  We see this phenomenon carry into the churches as well.  People are generally reluctant to welcome newcomers or provide dinner for a family with a newborn.  

Based on today’s passage, Paul might have been the worst guest ever.  Could you imagine if your church invited a speaker for a conference, but when he arrived, he was too sick to speak?  If your pastor were to ask the church for volunteers to host this guy until he got better, how many people do you think would volunteer?  But this display of hospitality and Christian love opened the door for the Galatians to have a relationship with one of the greatest men of faith the world will ever see.  

How many ministry opportunities do you think hospitality could open up for you?  How many blessings do you think God can bestow on you because you are willing to demonstrate hospitality (see Heb. 13:2)?  What will you do today to demonstrate Christ’s love through hospitality?  Get the point?  Now, go home and learn to cook (just kidding, sort of). 

Prayer: Lord, give me the gift of hospitality and service.  Help me to see a need in another that I can fill.  Also, put in my heart a person or family to whom I can reach out to with the love of Christ.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 4


Lunch Break Study

Read Matt 25:31-46 (only verses 34-40 are provided): “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the point of this parable/teaching?
  2. How will Christ (the King) recognize his people from others?
  3. What is the value of good works?  What good works are in your life?  

Notes

  1. By caring for others in need, we are serving and caring for Christ.  By neglecting others in need, we are neglecting Christ.  
  2. God’s people will generally be recognized by their care for others.   
  3. This parable is the last in a series between Matt. 24-25 on the Kingdom of Heaven.  It is important to note that none of these parables fully describe the Kingdom by itself.  So it would be wrong for you to conclude, based solely on this passage, that unless someone helps people in need, he will not be saved.  Good works do have value, but they cannot save you.  The point again is, by serving others we are serving God.  

Evening Reflection

Was there someone that you felt the Lord wanted you to serve today?  What did you do about it?  Is there someone you can encourage?  The day is not over; you can still do something to cultivate hospitality, like emailing someone to see if he/she wants to come over for dinner.   

November 18, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on September 1, 2014; it has been updated. Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Our Desperate Hope in God”

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 (ESV)

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.  3 What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun? 4 A generation goes, and a generation comes, but the earth remains forever. 5  The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises. 6 The wind blows to the south and goes around to the north; around and around goes the wind, and on its circuits the wind returns. 7 All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again. 8 All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. 9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.  10 Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us. 11 There is no remembrance of former things, nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after. 

One of the most unusual circumstances surrounding a sermon was a message given by John Chrysostom in the late fourth century.  On this particular Sunday, a man by the name of Eutropius was clinging to the altar at the Hagia Sophia and literally begging for his life.  Up to this point Eutropius had been the closest adviser to the Emperor Arcadius, but he was found guilty of abusing his imperial power and sentenced to death.  In an effort to save his own life, Eutropius escaped from the palace, ran to the nearby church, and claimed the legal protection of sanctuary.  The soldiers and the mob surrounded the church demanding for his immediate execution.  But as nightfall came, the crowds dispersed, knowing that they could return the next morning to witness the drama unfold during the Sunday service.  

Knowing that all of the city would be fixed on what he would say, John Chrysostom chose to preach out of Ecclesiastes 1:2, using Eutropius as the perfect sermon illustration.  He duly noted that this man who had been second only to the emperor in power, wealth, and position had become “more wretched than a chained convict, more pitiable than a menial slave, more indigent than a beggar wasting away with hunger.”  But the pastor’s purpose that morning was not to condemn the man but to save him by moving the crowds to compassion.  To that end, he noted that his own words could not convey the agony of a man who had to suffer with the thought of being executed at any given moment.  Then he turned the attention of the crowd toward themselves, challenging them to realize the vanity of their own existence.  Whether rich or poor, powerful or weak, everyone would find themselves before a just and holy God on the Day of Judgment.  Their only hope was the same hope to which Eutropius clung to– mercy at the altar of Christ.  

The sermon had its intended impact.  The crowds, with tears of compassion, spared Eutropius’ life.  The Word of God, particularly the words found in Ecclesiastes, saved a man’s life.   As we go through the book of Ecclesiastes over the next month, I pray that we would all understand how God saves us from ourselves and gives true meaning to life.  

Prayer: Father, without you there is no meaning to our lives.  Everything is meaningless and without purpose but with you in our lives, all things even the small things have a meaning.  Help us to look to you today and cling to the altar of Christ.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 3


Lunch Break Study  

Read James 4:13-17: “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.  17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

Questions to Consider 

  1. Why should we not spend excessive time and energy mapping out our own life plans?   
  2. How does James describe our time here on earth?
  3. What can you do practically to avoid the sin of self-sufficiency and pride?  

Notes

  1. James reminds us that we have no control over the future and that we have no idea what tomorrow will bring.  For that reason, we should not be so rigid in the way we plan our lives.  Your five-year plan may not necessarily be God’s five year plan, and our view of life has to be flexible enough to account for that.  When we are self-sufficient and blinded by pride, we can become very inflexible in the way we handle the inevitable ups and downs of life to our own harm.  
  2. In the second part of verse 14, human life is described as a vapor or a mist.  James uses the same word/concept of the Hebrew word hebel that is found in Ecclesiastes 1:2 and translated as vanity or meaningless .
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Take time to reflect on your life.  Are you living with meaning and purpose?  Pray that God would be at the center of all your plans and decisions.  If you are struggling with feelings of meaninglessness, trust that God will provide meaning for everything that you are going through.   

November 17, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by the then (2013) staff of Kairos Christian Church in San Diego, is an updated version of their blog first posted on July 16, 2013.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Struggling with Who?  God?”

Psalm 77:3-9

I remembered you, God, and I groaned; I meditated, and my spirit grew faint. 4 You kept my eyes from closing; I was too troubled to speak. 5 I thought about the former days, the years of long ago; 6 I remembered my songs in the night. My heart meditated and my spirit asked: 7 “Will the Lord reject forever? Will he never show his favor again? 8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? 9 Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”

The psalmist is in no ordinary trouble.  His spirit is faint; he is so troubled he can’t even speak.  He remembers the goodness of the past in contrast with the present which causes him to ask, “Where is God?”

If nothing else, the psalmist is honest.  He recognizes that the excruciating struggles in his heart are ultimately struggles with God.  His enemies and his circumstances have not simply produced a material or emotional crisis; he is in a crisis of faith.  

When our hearts are filled with turmoil, we are tempted to believe that we are not struggling with God.  We know that “good Christians” do not doubt God, but we are not “good Christians.”  We doubt Him daily, and difficulties simply magnify those doubts.  We must face the fragility of our faith.  When we do, we finally come to a place where we can receive His grace.

Pray that today your heart would constantly say, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.”  As you encounter difficulties and challenges, ask the Lord to search and expose your heart and to give you the forgiveness and power you need.

Prayer: Lord, I am so ready to blame others or to blame my circumstances.  But Father, I thank you that your primary concern in my life is my heart.  Lord, search and expose my heart in such a way that it drives me to the cross.  Make my heart pure before you and grant me the grace I need to please you even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 2


Lunch Break Study

Read James 3:1-8 (NIV): Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. 3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

Questions to Consider

  1. James now turns his attention to wisdom and speech. Why does James warn the believers not to become teachers too quickly? 
  2. What is James trying to teach us by the use of metaphors to describe the effects of the tongue (bits, rudder, a small spark, taming of animals)? 
  3. Before you speak to others today, think about the kind of ramifications it may have on those who hear your speech. If it will be for the good, speak sincerely. If it will be for the worse, remain silent. So, how are you doing with your tongue?

Notes

  1. James warns the believers not to become teachers too quickly because teachers (who depend so heavily on the use of their speech) will be judged more strictly when they sin (because they have more widespread influence.) And the teachers are just as susceptible to reckless speech as anybody else. 
  2. The tongue is a powerful influence for good, completely out of proportion to its size. Right speech is a sign of Christian maturity. In the way that a small bit can turn a horse or a rudder can turn a ship, a small tongue can accomplish great things for the Lord. In the same way, the tongue can also cause disproportionate damages; a small spark can burn down an entire forest or this small part of the body can corrupt the body entire. And unfortunately, man has not figured out how to tame this tongue. 
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

Think about the way in which Jesus used his tongue when he spoke to men, women, and children during his ministry. Which of his sayings or teachings comes to your mind? Journal about that particular teaching or saying. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to recognize my own speech patterns. If my tongue has been used for destruction, please fill me with Your Spirit so that it will be used for God’s glory. Amen.  

November 16, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor David Kwon who heads Journey Community Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, was first posted on November 26, 2014.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (BS) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“God’s Heart for the Lost”

1 Timothy 2:3-7

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, [4] who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. [5] For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, [6] who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. [7] For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Have you ever had a close friend or family member come to know Christ because of your prayers or influence?  There is such indescribable joy when the people we pray for come to faith in Christ.  Throughout my years as a Christian, I have seen people who were far away from God come to know Christ, and in each of these conversions, I am amazed at His power that saves.

In this passage, we see God’s heart for those who do not know him:  He “desires all people to be saved and come to know the knowledge of truth” (v.4).  This truth is that God loves the whole world, desires all people to be saved, and so commands us to preach the gospel to all the nations and pray for their salvation.  It is through one mediator, Christ Jesus, that all can come to know his incredible love and grace.    

Spend some time this morning praying for those who do not know Christ.  Maybe it is a family member, coworker, neighbor, small group member, etc.  Since prayer is one of the means through which the Lord redeems His people, we are called to intercede.  Let’s remind ourselves that God desires all to come to know Him, and that He calls us to be part of His redemption work.

Prayer: Lord, I want to lift up those in my life who do not know Jesus.  May they experience your saving grace.  May you use me to share Christ boldly.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 1


Lunch Break Study 

Read Luke 15:1-7: Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. [2] And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”[3] So he told them this parable: [4] “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? [5] And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. [6] And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ [7] Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Questions to Consider 

  1. Why do you think Jesus tells this parable?  What does He want to communicate?
  2. How does Jesus view people who are lost?
  3. Do we have this kind of heart for those who do not know Jesus? 

Notes

  1. God rejoices over the recovery of a lost sinner, and therefore it is Jesus’ supreme desire to seek and save the lost.
  2. This attitude is illustrated by the willingness of a shepherd to go out over the hills searching, so that not even one sheep may be missing from his flock. There may be some who ask: “What does one lost sheep matter compared with ninety–nine safe in the fold?” and ignore the value of the individual. Not so with God. He rejoices even more (if that is possible) over the return of the lost than over the safety of those at home. 
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

We have been reflecting on God’s heart for the lost today.  Spend some time in prayer asking that He would give you his heart for people.  

November 15, Sunday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Charles Choe who leads Tapestry Church in Los Angeles, was first posted on June 22, 2014.  Charles is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Helping the Widows”

1 Timothy 5:3-16

Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. 4 But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. 5 The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. 6 But the widow who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives. 7 Give the people these instructions, so that no one may be open to blame. 8 Anyone who does not provide for their relatives, and especially for their own household, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 9 No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, 10 and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. 11 As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also busybodies who talk nonsense, saying things they ought not to. 14 So I counsel younger widows to marry, to have children, to manage their homes and to give the enemy no opportunity for slander. 15 Some have in fact already turned away to follow Satan. 16 If any woman who is a believer has widows in her care, she should continue to help them and not let the church be burdened with them, so that the church can help those widows who are really in need.

Paul now turns to the problem of widows. In Paul’s time, widows were in an especially difficult position because employment for women was not readily available, nor was there some type of government assistance for the elderly. Perhaps some could receive help through family or friends, but many lived in poverty, never having received an inheritance. Since the outlook for many was dire, it was important for the church to support them. In fact, soon after the birth of the church, not too long after the Pentecost, the book of Acts records that the caring of widows was the first internal problem the church had to address (Acts 6). 

This problem was also found in the Ephesian church, and Paul addresses this issue to Timothy in today’s passage. The primary concern in today’s passage is to identify which widows the church should provide for. There are two key indicators: not having other family members and general godliness of the widow. But the point that should not escape us today is precisely the church’s mandate to care for the widows. Why? Because the church is to reflect the heart of God on earth. When we love those who have nothing to offer in return, and we care for those who can’t help themselves, then we reflect the very love that God has demonstrated to us through His Son Jesus Christ.  

So Paul gives Timothy admonitions as to how to deal with this matter in v.3: Honor widows who are real widows. Paul is saying, “Don’t be taken advantage of, but if there are real needs, real widows, honor them by providing for them.” And herein lies the principle the church is commended to live out: When there are people with genuine needs, the church should do all they can to help them. In fact, the apostle James says this is the sign of true religion (James 1:27). When we help widows and orphans, this is a certain way to demonstrate the genuineness of our faith. 

So consider how helpful you are when it comes to those who are helpless and can offer nothing in return. When is the last you helped someone without expecting anything back? Challenge yourself to look for someone who needs help so that you can serve them without being paid back. 

Prayer: Lord, thank You that You have put us in a position to help the needy, including the widows. May we be generous in reflection of Your generosity toward us.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Song of Songs 8

November 14, Saturday

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought is an updated version of AMI QT Devotional first posted on August 16, 2013.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Which Comes First: Healing or Forgiveness?” 

Luke 5:17-26

One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” 21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”

Maybe the paralytic, having long given up on himself, was also paralyzed in his spirit.

Perhaps he just simply went along with what his well-meaning friends were trying to do for him.  Or could it be that the paralytic’s faith was included in “their faith”?  Living in America where individualism has become more important than the community, it may be extremely hard for us to understand “their faith.”  

But one thing is certain: everyone was somewhat disappointed or angry when Jesus said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (v. 20).  Some of the religious leaders were upset since Jesus declared only what God has the authority to do, which is to forgive.  Initially, the rest of the crowd was probably disappointed, since they really expected to see something spectacular, such as a miraculous healing.  Of course, the paralytic and his four friends were beyond feeling disappointed—actually, devastation is more like it. 

So then, why did forgiveness come first?  I need not add anything to Jesus’ response to that question: “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Lk. 5:24).  We all want to see something more spectacular in life, like miraculous healings, but foremost, Jesus wants us to see and experience His authority to forgive so that we can be reconciled to God.  Have you been forgiven?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for forgiving my sin in Christ.  Thank You for the previous gift of being forgiven forever in Your Son.  In Jesus’ name, amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Song of Song 6-7

November 13, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor David Kwon who heads Journey Community Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, was first posted on November 22, 2013.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (BS) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Remembering the Great Works of God in Our Lives”

Psalm 111:1-10

Praise the LORD! I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation. [2] Great are the works of the LORD, studied by all who delight in them. [3] Full of splendor and majesty is his work, and his righteousness endures forever. [4] He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and merciful. [5] He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. [6] He has shown his people the power of his works, in giving them the inheritance of the nations. [7] The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy; [8] they are established forever and ever, to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness. [9] He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name! [10] The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!

Do you remember the last time something completely captivated you?  Maybe it was the beauty of a painting or the sound of an orchestra, but whatever it was, everyone has experienced the excitement of something amazing in their life.  

Here in Psalm 111, as the psalmist is reflecting back and remembering the greatness of the Lord, he is amazed at all that God has done (Psalm 111:2).  The psalmist is “praising the Lord” because:

  1. V.3 – He is full of splendor and majesty; His righteousness endures forever;
  2. V.4 – He is gracious and merciful;
  3. V.5 – He remembers his covenants;
  4. V.7 – He is faithful, just, and trustworthy.

This is an acrostic psalm, where each line of poetry follows the letters of the Hebrew alphabet from beginning to end. And this form is quite appropriate since the theme of the psalm is remembering the great works of God, and His faithfulness to His people throughout history. 

Given all that God’s people have been through and will continue to endure, it’s important that we remember that God keeps His covenant, and He will continue to look out for those who love Him.  

Spend some time this morning reflecting on the “great works of the Lord.”  As the writer of the Psalm did, thank him for his faithfulness, mercy, his righteousness, and love that endures forever.  

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for Your great works done in my life.  I am so grateful that You continue to do amazing things for me in spite of me.  Praise the Lord!  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Song of Songs 5


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 7:7-11: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. [8] For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. [9] Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? [10] Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? [11] If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

Questions to Consider

  1. According to this passage, what should we expect when we “ask” Jesus in our prayers?
  2. What is the model for prayer taught by Jesus?
  3. How does Jesus compare our earthly fathers to the heavenly Father?

Notes

  1. Prayer is one of the ways we can experience the “great works of Jesus” in our lives.  It is amazing to think that our heavenly Father listens and answers our prayers.  
  2. The model for prayer that Jesus gives to His people reveals the incredible truth: that His disciples are privileged to call God Father.  No matter how minor our worries and needs may seem, they are never trifling matters to Him; he is genuinely concerned about us and wants us to present them to Him.
  3. Jesus compares earthly fathers to our heavenly Father to demonstrate God’s love and trustworthiness. In the midst of affirming that we give our children good things when they ask, Jesus points out what should be obvious—that we are evil.  Yet the emphasis is not on how sinful we are but on the goodness of God, which should move us to pray. If we, who possess no inherent goodness, give only good things to our sons and daughters, how could we believe that God the Father, who is the supreme standard of goodness, do less?  Take time to meditate and pray to our God who knows our needs and desires to give to us!

Evening Reflection

We have been meditating on the goodness of our God throughout this day.  Remember the “great works” he has done in your own life and give thanks to Him.   It could be answered prayers, God’s provision, a significant event like marriage or a birth of a child, people you know coming to know the Lord, etc.  There are many works that we can praise Him for.  Thank Jesus for all that he has done.

November 12, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by then (2013) staff of Remnant Westside Church in Manhattan, was first posted on September 19, 2013.  

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Lord, All I Want is You”

Psalm 89:15-18

Blessed are the people who know the festal shout, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, 16 who exult in your name all the day and in your righteousness are exalted. 17 For you are the glory of their strength; by your favor our horn is exalted. 18 For our shield belongs to the Lord, our king to the Holy One of Israel.

This morning’s Psalm focuses in on the people who have experienced the presence of the Lord that overflows into praise and exaltation of God. The phrase, “the light of your face,” points to the favor of the Lord and also His presence. The imagery of the horn being exalted refers to the rising of strength and power. With this in mind, what we understand is that the outward manifestation of walking in His presence is visible worship that glorifies the name of God, His joy, strength, and power.

In this text, the psalmist is revealing the secret of living a life of victory, strength, worship, and security; it is to walk in the presence of the Lord. He properly sets the order for our lives. First and foremost, it is walking in the light of His face, which means

constantly being aware of who God is and what His words command even in the midst of a hectic week.  The overflow of this, then, is the exuberance of worship, when we praise and adore God on Sundays, followed by a life of offering our bodies as living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1).  That’s when we can truly experience the strength, the power and the security of God. 

This morning, this Psalm is reminding us that our highest priority and the way to live the blessed life, must be to walk in His presence. He is drawing us into intimacy and His presence. Let us respond this morning by saying, “Lord, all I want is you.”

Prayer: Thank God that, by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, we are able to worship by the Spirit of God! Lord, help us not to take pride in or make me feel like I am a better Christian than others.  Help me to repent of taking pride in the flesh.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Song of Songs 4


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 3:2-6: Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Questions to Consider

  1. What do you know about the rite of circumcision (Gn. 17:10ff)?  What was it for?
  2. Who were the so-called “mutilators of flesh” and how did they manipulate the rite of circumcision?
  3. What is the apostle Paul’s response to those who wanted to add circumcision to the salvific “formula”?

Notes

  1. The rite of circumcision, first induced in Genesis 17 with respect to Abraham, was the sign of God’s covenant with Israel that elevated her as the people of God.
  2. The “mutilators of the flesh” were presumably false teachers using circumcision for ulterior motives, perhaps as a sign of setting themselves above people who weren’t circumcised, as if God loved them more for this “work.”
  3. Paul debunks this kind of thinking by saying there is nothing in the flesh that merits favor with God. If there were, he has a resume filled with such “works,” but unlike others, he wouldn’t use his accomplishments to lift himself up above others.

Evening Reflection

John 15:5: I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”

“Heavenly Father, I seek to grow in true knowledge of You and to know who I am as Your child and disciple, in order to know my purpose in this life.  You never disappoint me and You are always near me. I know that You are always counseling and teaching me in the most wonderful ways, leading me in the perfect way to go, giving me the authority and power to be victorious. You are the ultimate One and I choose to anchor my soul in beauty of who You are!   Your mercies are new every morning, and Your goodness follows me every day of my life. What have I to fear? The truth of who You are permeates my heart.  You are calling me forth, rallying my heart to gaze upon You.” Amen. 

November 11, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Matt Ro who formerly pastored Journey Church in Atlanta, was originally posted on May 15, 2013.  Matt is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BS) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning  

“‘Breathing Exercises’ When We Pray”

Psalm 58:6-11 (ESV)

O God, break the teeth in their mouths; tear out the fangs of the young lions, O Lord! 7 Let them vanish like water that runs away; when he aims his arrows, let them be blunted. 8 Let them be like the snail that dissolves into slime, like the stillborn child who never sees the sun. 9 Sooner than your pots can feel the heat of thorns, whether green or ablaze, may he sweep them away! 10 The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked. 11 Mankind will say, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.”

Prayer is one of the most remarkable privileges that we have.  It can be compared to how we breath physically.  Through prayer, we breathe with the breath of God’s Spirit.  We exhale impure air — such as our complaints, our honest confessions, and our disturbing thoughts.  In prayer, we inhale the fresh breath of God — His revelations, assurance, and promises.  We may respond by breathing out and exploding in praise to God.

One form of breathing prayer is the complaint psalm in Scripture, sometimes called the “cursing” or imprecatory psalm.  We rarely hear messages in church about these prayers, especially words like, “O God, break the teeth in their mouths” (Psalm 58:6a).  It can be disturbing to us, sounding self-righteous, paranoid, or even vengeful; but actually, what the psalmists are doing is breathing with God.  These prayers are samplings of their private struggles.  We can see that even though everything is going badly, the psalmists keep on talking with God.  They do not turn their backs on God.

The “cursing” psalms teach us an important lesson about prayer: when things get unbearable or injustices assail us, when life is more than we can bear, we can still face our heavenly Father.  He can handle our rants.  We can vent our pain and process our thoughts in His presence.   By the end of Psalm 58, we see that the psalmist has settled down.  He says, “Surely there is a reward for the righteous; surely there is a God who judges on earth.” (v. 11).  The psalmist comes through with a sense of hope and assurance.

These psalms in Scripture teach us to wrestle through with God (Col. 4:12).  We, too, can breathe out all our disturbing and chaotic thoughts whether it be through journaling, poetry, or art; or we can let Scriptures express for us what we can’t.  This process, as disordered as it may be, is essential for our well-being.  Give it a try today.

Prayer:  Father, You invite us to breathe with Your Spirit and to freely express our burdens and our joys in prayer.  Give us the courage to pray with such consistent honesty before You.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Song of Songs 3


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 4:4-6 (ESV): There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Questions to Consider

  1. Paul uses the word “one” a total of seven times in these three verses.  What are some lessons that can we learn about unity from this passage?  
  2. If you had the same unity with the Father as Jesus had, how would that affect your human relationships?  
  3. Upon what basis is our unity based?
  4. What are some areas that God has revealed to you in which you have been focusing on yourself instead of on Him and His glory?

Notes

  1. Beginning with Eph. 4:3, we see that unity is not something that needs to be produced but is something that already exists.  It is not only based on truth but also the experiences and identities that we share.  These are things that lay hold of us, not we who lay hold of them. We are united in these ways the moment we become a Christian.  Therefore, the way to create unity is simply to bring people to Christ, and the unity of the Spirit will be produced in them by the Spirit.  Another principle for unity is that we are “one body.”  I think back to Galatians 3:28 where there is “neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  What does this all mean?  You and I lose our “human” identity in Christ.  I shouldn’t be known anymore for my social, physical status in life. I now should be known as a Christian (i.e., a follower of Christ) first and above all else.  Rather than being known as pro-this or anti-that, I should be known as a Christian who seeks to emulate Christ.
  2. It is important that Christians not be quarreling, bickering, and struggling against one another.  Such a church is totally ineffective in its life and ministry.  It is important that when Christians meet together, they recognize that they are called to understand one another, to forbear one another, to pray for one another, to forgive one another, not holding grudges, not being bitter or resentful toward each other. We must fulfill what God tells us to do through the apostle Paul: to maintain the unity of the Spirit.
  3. This unity is based on truth: There is one Spirit—one Holy Spirit—who is the third person of the Trinity.  He calls us to life, convicts us of sin, draws us to Christ, and enables us to walk worthy of this calling.  There is one hope in this calling—the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Hope that will not be disappointed (Is. 49:23b).  There is one Lord—one Jesus, one Mediator between God and men, one Savior, one Redeemer.   There is only one way to heaven.  There is one faith—one true belief.  Whatever is not of faith is sin.  There is one baptism—one immersion into Christ by the Spirit of God, symbolized by our water baptism.  There is one God—this is in reality the most foundational truth, echoed throughout the Old and New Testament, that the Lord our God is One.  There is none other.
  4. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Have we realized that it is not our job to produce unity, but to discover the unity produced by the Spirit?  Have others noticed the peace, love, and life of Christ in us?

Prayer:  Father, may Your Spirit search my heart about my attitude toward others.  Thank you that it is not my calling to produce a union of Christians but rather to discover that unity produced only by the Holy Spirit.  Amen

November 10, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey, was first posted on July 23, 2014.  He is a graduate of University of Wisconsin (BA) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Trusting God When We Are Wronged”

1 Peter 2:23

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 

Parent’s natural instinct is to shield their child from harm. But in a fallen world, this is an impossible task. No one can be shielded from every possible disappointment, rejection, lie, spiritual attack, and sin in general. We do not live in a bubble, but in a fallen world where we sin against others, and others sin against us. 

Jesus, the Son of God, though perfect and sinless, faced disappointments and the sins of others. The Bible says, “He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.” (Jn.1:11).  The Father God did not shield His only Son from sin; but instead, the sin of the world was on Jesus, and He overcame sin: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just a we are – yet He did not sin” (Heb.4:15). 

How do you respond when others sin against you? The Bible says that Jesus “did not retaliate… He made no threats.  Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.” Jesus taught His disciples to forgive those who hurt them instead of holding on to their sins against them. We, as well, are to let those offenses go instead of holding on to them. Does that mean that we are to forget what they did to us? No, not forget; but rather, trust. Instead of trusting in ourselves to be the judge, jury, and executioner, we trust the Lord who is the perfect Judge.

Prayer: Lord, minister to my heart, bringing healing and freedom. I choose to forgive those who have hurt me, and I release them into your hands. You vindicate me, Lord.  You redeem and restore relationships. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Song of Songs 2


Lunch Break Study

Read Hebrews 12:15: See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.

Gal. 5:15: If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is a typical outcome of being bitter and judging those who have hurt us?
  2. What does it mean when you cease to be the judge and have the Lord be the judge over those who hurt you?

Notes

  1. Hebrews 12:15 uses the word “trouble,” while the Galatian passage says “destruction,” referring to broken relationships.  As a result of being a bitter and critical person, loneliness may ensue since no one really likes to be around people with these characteristics. 
  2. In short, you allow God to handle the situation and the people who are hurting you.  One way to implement this is to “love your enemies” by “pray[ing] for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44).

Evening Reflection

How can God use difficult relationships to work out His purpose in your life?