December 2, Saturday

The AMI QT Devotionals for November 27 to December 3 are written by David Son, who serves as the college pastor at Symphony Church in Boston. David, a graduate of UC Berkeley (B.S.) and Gordon-Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Grace, who teaches at a public school.

 

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Asking for Confirmation”

Genesis 24:10-14

Then the servant took ten of his master’s camels and departed, taking all sorts of choice gifts from his master; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia to the city of Nahor. And he made the camels kneel down outside the city by the well of water at the time of evening, the time when women go out to draw water. And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”

Growing up, I always believed it was utterly wrong to ask God for a sign, and not without good reason! There are many examples from Scripture where it was clearly wrong to ask for a sign: For example, when the Israelites tested God at Massah (Ex. 17), or when Jesus was tempted by Satan to throw himself down from the temple (Matt. 4), and also when Jesus rebukes an “evil generation” that seeks for a sign (Luke 11). But on the other hand, there are also some examples where it was right for people to ask God for a sign: When Gideon received his call, he asked for several consecutive signs to confirm his anointing as a judge over Israel. In 2 Kings 20, Hezekiah asks for a sign to confirm that he would indeed be healed of his deathly illness. Furthermore, in the book of Malachi, God even invites His people to put Him to the test when it comes to tithing!

In our passage today, Abraham’s servant asks God for a sign, that the woman he asks to give him a drink would also extend herself to water his camels as well. Lo and behold, God grants him the sign, and he ends up meeting Rebekah. But what made this servant’s request appropriate? It was because he was acting within the realm of God’s will. He had already taken ten camels, all sorts of gifts, and had traveled an incredibly long distance, for no other reason than out of obedience. In other words, asking God for a sign of confirmation becomes appropriate when we are in the context of God’s will, and we are walking in obedience.

Of course, there is a point where asking for signs can become dangerous, not only to ourselves but to others as well. (An easy way to tell this is if the sign itself becomes more desirable than the actual obedience to God. This can be called “testing”.) But I believe that when we ask God for confirmation of His will, and we have the heart to obey, He will respond. It may be through Scripture, through the wise words of a friend/mentor, through prayer, or even our circumstances. Let us not be afraid to ask our Heavenly Father to speak to us!

Prayer: Lord, we desire to hear from You, because we want to walk with You. Open our eyes to be able to see Your hand at work around us. Help us to sense Your presence, even in the unlikeliest of places. Our desire is to be able to join You in Your Kingdom work each day. Help us to do so. In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 33-34

December 1, Friday

The AMI QT Devotionals for November 27 to December 3 are written by David Son, who serves as the college pastor at Symphony Church in Boston. David, a graduate of UC Berkeley (B.S.) and Gordon-Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Grace, who teaches at a public school.

 

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Power of Words”

Genesis 24:5-8

The servant said to him, “Perhaps the woman may not be willing to follow me to this land. Must I then take your son back to the land from which you came?” Abraham said to him, “See to it that you do not take my son back there. The Lord, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my kindred, and who spoke to me and swore to me, ‘To your offspring I will give this land,’ he will send his angel before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there. But if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be free from this oath of mine; only you must not take my son back there.”

Since the age of four, Cheryl Pruitt used to hang around her father’s country store; and each day, the milkman would arrive at the store and would greet Cheryl the same way: “How’s my little Miss America?” Many years later, Cheryl Pruitt went on to actually become the 1980 Miss America. The power that words can have is profound—even simple words from a neighborhood milkman! How much more powerful are the words of God in transforming our lives?

Around age 80 was when Abraham received the word from God, “To your offspring I will give this land,” in Genesis 15. Here in our passage (Gen 24), Abraham is around 140 years old; and we see that he is still clinging faithfully to this promise! In fact, not only does Abraham remember the promise from 60 years ago, it seems that his entire life had been lived out through the lens of that promise.  When it came time for his son, Isaac, to find a wife, Abraham gave his servant clear instructions to go back to Abraham’s home country to find a woman. But there was one command that Abraham gave that was even more important than finding a wife for his son: it was that Isaac would remain in the Promised Land—no matter what.

For Abraham, the promises of God had effectively shaped his entire life. His decision to leave Ur of Chaldeans, his decision to live in Canaan as a sojourner, his willingness to offer up his son as a sacrifice, his command for his posterity to remain in Canaan—all of these hinged upon Abraham’s faith in the promises of God.

Oftentimes, our decisions are fueled by logic (what makes the most sense?), or by self-interest (what creates the most ideal situation for me?), or by convenience (what is the least complicated thing to do?). What would it look like if we started living one day at a time, with a decision-making process that hinges completely on God’s Word?

Prayer: God, help us to be shaped by Your Word. May we not simply be hearers, but rather doers of it. As we go through this day, open our eyes to see the opportunities to walk according to Your promises. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 32


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 119:9-16: How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.

With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.  Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes!

With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth.  In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

Questions to Consider

  1. What topic does the psalmist address in every sentence of this Psalm?
  2. According to the psalmist, what can we do to protect the purity of our ways?
  3. According to the psalmist, who is responsible for our reading/understanding of the Word?

Notes

  1. In every line of this Psalm, the psalmist talks about God’s Word (commandments, statutes, rules of your mouth, your testimonies, etc.).
  2. The psalmist says, twice, that the way to walk in purity involves storing God’s word in our hearts. On first thought, there may not seem to be a direct connection between reading the Bible and not sinning, but the truth is, what we fill ourselves with is what comes out, and what we find delight in will shape our character.
  3. This Psalm mostly says, “I will…” but it also says, “let me not wander…” and “teach me your statutes”—which means that reading and understanding Scripture takes both our personal effort AND the divine help of God. So, let us not grow lazy in pursuing Him in Scripture, and let us also not grow complacent in thinking we can read the Word without the help of the Holy Spirit.

Evening Reflection

In our world, every subsequent generation has gotten faster and more efficient in all that we do. To slow a task down when we can do it fast is unthinkable. Yet, reading God’s Word is often neither fast nor efficient. Like all relationships, the quality of our intimacy depends on whether we are able to slow down and communicate with each other. This evening, spend some time slowing down your mind and heart for the sake of spending quality time with the Lord.

November 30, Thursday

The AMI QT Devotionals for November 27 to December 3 are written by David Son, who serves as the college pastor at Symphony Church in Boston. David, a graduate of UC Berkeley (B.S.) and Gordon-Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Grace, who teaches at a public school.

 

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“God’s Will in Marriage”

Genesis 24:1-4

Now Abraham was old, well advanced in years. And the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things. And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his household, who had charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh, that I may make you swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and God of the earth, that you will not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I dwell, but will go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”

The city of Shanghai has a peculiar event called the “Shanghai Marriage Market.” Think local farmer’s market meets eHarmony. At this meet and greet, parents write the basic information of their child on a slip of paper, and it gets put on display on a wall, along with hundreds of other “advertisements.” Pertinent information includes age, height, job, income, zodiac sign, etc. The hope for parents is that they would meet another parent whose child is a suitable match for their own child. As you might expect, the children mostly despise their parents’ participation in the Shanghai Marriage Market. But it continues to take place on a weekly basis because of the strong desire of parents to preserve their cultural traditions for the next generation.

In our text for today, Abraham is also very serious about whom his son, Isaac, will marry. He makes his lead servant take an oath to go back to his home-country and find a non-Canaanite wife for Isaac. But what was Abraham’s motivation? Was it simply a desire to preserve culture and traditions? Or was there something much deeper going on? (We see a similar thing happen later when Jacob is in search of a wife in Genesis 28.)

For a long time, I didn’t understand why God didn’t want His people to intermarry, particularly with the Canaanites. For a second I even thought, Is God against marriage of people of differing ethnicities? But that didn’t seem right in line with the rest of Scripture. It wasn’t until I read Deuteronomy 7:3-5 that I began to grasp what is really happening here: “You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods.” God’s primary concern here is holiness. Abraham’s request was not about racial elitism, nor was it merely about preserving one particular culture/tradition; it was a matter of holiness. Abraham understood the power of marriage to transform and influence his son Isaac, and so it was his final mission to help his son find a wife who loved the Lord, and would help move him toward holiness.

A lot has changed since the time of Abraham and Isaac, especially in dating/marriage traditions. But this truth remains: God’s will for us is to move us toward holiness in/through all aspects of our lives. Whether it’s in marriage, relationships, or even our careers, God’s will is that we grow to love Him more through each of these areas. This morning, take a moment and consider if these areas are moving you closer to Him, or further away from Him.

Prayer: God, may everything in my life be used to draw me closer to You. Especially the areas that have the most impact on me, I ask that You would use them to sanctify me. Give me wisdom and discernment to be able to identify relationships/activities that may be pulling me away from You. In all things, I ask for Your grace to cover me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 31


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18: And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Questions to Consider

  1. According to Paul, why should we obey these commands?
  2. What do all of these commands have in common?
  3. What can we learn about the will of God from this passage?

Notes

  1. Paul gives us a clear motivation as to why we ought to do these things: because it is the will of God for us!
  2. It may not be obvious at first glance, but all of the commands listed here have to do with our character. It seems that God is more concerned about who we are becoming than what tasks we can accomplish.
  3. Most often, we think the will of God has to do with career path: “Should I take this job offer or this other one?” But this passage says nothing about occupations, titles, or salary. Instead, it says that the will of God is for us to be encouragers, helpers, patient, doing good to all, rejoicers, pray-ers, and giving thanks in all circumstances. Perhaps you are in a season of your life where you are seeking God’s will. If so, may this passage give you a clear place to start!

Evening Reflection

Often, the hardest places to live out God’s will are the places that are closest to our hearts: our families and/or our roommates. For some reason, it’s much easier to be more patient and kind to people whom we don’t have to see all the time. But it’s these people (families, roommates, etc.) that God has placed in our lives that can have the biggest impact in forming Christ-like character in us. This evening, spend some time praying for those that God has placed closest to you.

November 29, Wednesday

The AMI QT Devotionals for November 27 to December 3 are written by David Son, who serves as the college pastor at Symphony Church in Boston. David, a graduate of UC Berkeley (B.S.) and Gordon-Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Grace, who teaches at a public school.

 

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Faith for the Next Generation”

Genesis 23:17-20

So the field of Ephron in Machpelah, which was to the east of Mamre, the field with the cave that was in it and all the trees that were in the field, throughout its whole area, was made over to Abraham as a possession in the presence of the Hittites, before all who went in at the gate of his city. After this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah east of Mamre (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan. The field and the cave that is in it were made over to Abraham as property for a burying place by the Hittites.

Vincent van Gogh is one of the most influential painters in the Western history of art. But during his life, he was never a successful artist and never made it big. His paintings were never highly regarded. He struggled with depression and psychosis. In fact, most people thought of Van Gogh as a miserable failure. It was only until after his tragic death that people began to take note of his mastery in painting. Generations later, Van Gogh’s masterpieces have become some of the most iconic and inspiring works known to man. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of Van Gogh’s life was that he had no idea of the impact he would have on future generations to come.

At first glance, one might make the mistake of likening Abraham’s life to that of Van Gogh’s. After all, Abraham didn’t live the most glamorous life: He lived as a sojourner, a foreigner in the land of Canaan. Furthermore, although he was promised descendants as numerous as the stars, he only really had one heir (Isaac). And although God had promised him a land with vast borders, this little plot of land, the field of Machpelah, was all that he had to his name. In fact, the only manifestations of God’s promises that Abraham ever got to see were his son (Isaac) and this field of Machpelah, where Sarah was buried. You might be thinking, “Abraham gave up everything, and left his home in Ur to end up with only that?!” Yes, but here is where Abraham was completely different from Mr. Van Gogh: Abraham’s faith gave him a vision for the future generations. Regardless of his accomplishments (or lack thereof), Abraham knew that none of his sacrifice or obedience would go to waste because God’s plan was bigger than himself. Abraham wasn’t a failure for not realizing God’s promises in his lifetime; Abraham became the father of faith, because he lived for the next generation.

Are you living for the next generation? Or are you defining the successfulness of God’s plan for you by looking only at your own accomplishments. Spend some time today asking God how He might be using you to build up the next generation, in faith.

Prayer: God, You are a God who is faithful from generation to generation. Help us to have faith beyond ourselves. Help us to walk in obedience, even if it may mean that we don’t get to see the fruit of it immediately, or ever. We believe that You are a sovereign God and we trust in You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 30


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Chronicles 22:6-19: Then he called for Solomon his son and charged him to build a house for the Lord, the God of Israel. David said to Solomon, “My son, I had it in my heart to build a house to the name of the Lord my God. But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth. Behold, a son shall be born to you who shall be a man of rest. I will give him rest from all his surrounding enemies. For his name shall be Solomon, and I will give peace and quiet to Israel in his days. He shall build a house for my name. He shall be my son, and I will be his father, and I will establish his royal throne in Israel forever.’ “Now, my son, the Lord be with you, so that you may succeed in building the house of the Lord your God, as he has spoken concerning you. Only, may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God. Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the rules that the Lord commanded Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Fear not; do not be dismayed. With great pains I have provided for the house of the Lord 100,000 talents of gold, a million talents of silver, and bronze and iron beyond weighing, for there is so much of it; timber and stone, too, I have provided. To these you must add. You have an abundance of workmen: stonecutters, masons, carpenters, and all kinds of craftsmen without number, skilled in working gold, silver, bronze, and iron. Arise and work! The Lord be with you!”

David also commanded all the leaders of Israel to help Solomon his son, saying, “Is not the Lord your God with you? And has he not given you peace on every side? For he has delivered the inhabitants of the land into my hand, and the land is subdued before the Lord and his people. Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God. Arise and build the sanctuary of the Lord God, so that the ark of the covenant of the Lord and the holy vessels of God may be brought into a house built for the name of the Lord.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What task is King David handing off to his son, Solomon?
  2. In what ways did David empower the next generation to accomplish this task?
  3. What can we learn from David’s example in this passage?

Notes

  1. It had been David’s personal desire to build a magnificent temple for God. But God indicated that David had shed too much blood, and therefore, the task would be given to David’s son, Solomon. In this passage, David is imparting this task onto his son.
  2. David is very intentional about setting Solomon up for success. He sets aside gold, silver, bronze, iron, timber, and stone. He rallies workmen and leaders and commands them to help his son, Solomon. He encourages them in the Lord, reminding them that God was with them. And finally, he gives them clear instructions to help them begin this task.
  3. David never got to see his dream come true. He never got to see the completion of this glorious temple. Yet, he didn’t despair; he didn’t consider himself a failure. He knew that he was called to be faithful in setting up the next generation for success. Although David had many accomplishments of his own during his lifetime. David’s faith also empowered him to finish strong, doing everything he possibly could to raise up the next generation. In what ways are you raising up those who are younger than you?

Evening Reflection

“The true meaning of life is to plant tree under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” – Nelson Henderson.

I don’t know if Mr. Henderson knew the Lord, but in some ways his quote captures a key aspect of what it means to be a servant of God. When we look at Scripture, many of the great men and women of faith never saw the complete fruition of the promises that God had for them. Abraham only had one child and a small piece of land, David never got to see the Temple of Jerusalem, Moses never entered the Promised Land. Yet each of them lived a fulfilled life because they knew that what they had accomplished was in God’s hands.

November 28, Tuesday

The AMI QT Devotionals for November 27 to December 3 are written by David Son, who serves as the college pastor at Symphony Church in Boston. David, a graduate of UC Berkeley (B.S.) and Gordon-Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Grace, who teaches at a public school.

 

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“An Example of Integrity”

Genesis 23:8-16

And he said to them, “If you are willing that I should bury my dead out of my sight, hear me and entreat for me Ephron the son of Zohar, that he may give me the cave of Machpelah, which he owns; it is at the end of his field. For the full price let him give it to me in your presence as property for a burying place.”Now Ephron was sitting among the Hittites, and Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the hearing of the Hittites, of all who went in at the gate of his city, “No, my lord, hear me: I give you the field, and I give you the cave that is in it. In the sight of the sons of my people I give it to you. Bury your dead.” Then Abraham bowed down before the people of the land. And he said to Ephron in the hearing of the people of the land, “But if you will, hear me: I give the price of the field. Accept it from me, that I may bury my dead there.” Ephron answered Abraham, “My lord, listen to me: a piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that between you and me? Bury your dead.” Abraham listened to Ephron, and Abraham weighed out for Ephron the silver that he had named in the hearing of the Hittites, four hundred shekels of silver, according to the weights current among the merchants.

Most American retail stores don’t operate on a system where prices are negotiable. But in many parts of the world, negotiating prices is a normal part of the business culture. If you’ve ever sold or purchased anything through Craigslist, you may have an idea of how temperamental and even volatile these transactions can be. In our passage today, Abraham enters into a negotiation with Ephron the Hittite for a plot of land. If there is anything we can learn from this passage, it’s the exemplary integrity of Abraham in a business setting.

  • First, they hold the transaction in a public place, the gate of the city in front of all the people. They could have done this deal privately, behind closed doors, but he was intentional about being transparent in his business dealing.
  • Second, Abraham shows respect by bowing before the people. The Hittites were not exactly Abraham’s friends. They didn’t follow God; they weren’t part of the community of faith. In fact, they would later become enemies of the descendants of Abraham. Nevertheless, Abraham treats them with respect.
  • Third, Abraham listens to Ephron and then insists on paying the full price. It may seem like Ephron is trying to gift the land to Abraham, but this back-and-forth dialogue was actually the customary way to bargain. When Ephron hints that the land is worth “four hundred shekels” he is effectively naming his price. Rather than haggle for the lowest possible bargain, Abraham gives him what he asks. Furthermore, Scripture mentions that he used the current weight measurements to ensure that he wasn’t swindling Ephron.

Could Abraham have gotten a better deal? Probably. Could Abraham have muscled his way onto the land and taken it by force? Perhaps. Why, then, does Abraham insist on paying full price, with full transparency, and respect, when dealing with strangers/enemies? Abraham wasn’t a sucker who overpaid the Hittites. Rather, there was a sense of honor and integrity that Abraham carried with him, even in the midst of business transactions. I can imagine that Ephron and the surrounding citizens must have been confused as Abraham began counting off four hundred shekels without even attempting to bargain. Prior to the meeting, one can assume that the Hittites were bracing for a heated exchange of negotiations. Instead, Abraham came to them, showing transparency, respect, integrity, and generosity.

Drawing from the example of Abraham, let us carry the character of God with us into our workplaces and classrooms today. Instead of approaching our work with worldly intent, let us approach it with godly intent. I believe that doing so will fundamentally change the nature of our work.

Sources Used:

https://www.theologyofwork.org/old-testament/genesis-12-50-and-work/abraham-genesis-121-2511/a-burial-plot-for-sarah-genesis-231-20

https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/archives/guzik_david/studyguide_gen/gen_23.cfm

Prayer: Lord, help us to walk with transparency, respect, integrity, and generosity, not just within the church walls, but wherever we go. Transform the fundamental nature of the work of our hands, so that it may glorify You, as well as to testify of Your character to those looking on. Highlight the areas in which we are lacking godly character so that we may repent. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 29


Lunch Break Study

Read Joshua 7:1-5: But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.

Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.

Questions to Consider

  1. According to this passage, in what way(s) did the people of Israel break the faith?
  2. What was the consequence of this breach in faith?
  3. What does this story tell us about the effect of hidden sin?

Notes

  1. Joshua 7 tells us that the people of Israel broke faith because one person, Achan, took some of the devoted things. In other words, the entire nation was at fault because of the sin of one man.
  2. Because of the sin of Achan, the anger of the Lord burned against the entire nation of Israel. Their very next military endeavor turned out to be a complete failure. They lost the battle and 36 of their men were killed. Furthermore, the hearts of the people “melted and became as water” because of this defeat. At first, this may seem like a small loss, but you have to realize that until this point, this Israelite army had not lost a battle. Big or small, they always won because they knew that God was on their side, fighting for them. This defeat was demoralizing because it meant that something wasn’t right with the Lord. All of a sudden, He wasn’t fighting for them anymore… and that was a terrifying thought.
  3. It’s shocking to see that God would withdraw His presence because of the sin of one person. This shows us how severe it is to keep hidden sin. It doesn’t just affect the one person; it affects the entire community. Of course, the power of Jesus’ blood is enough to cover and forgive every sin. Nevertheless, when we choose to incubate hidden sins, the consequences can be tremendous, even tragic. If you are part of a community of faith, let us practice walking in the light.

Evening Reflection

This evening, spend some time praying for your workplace/campus/neighborhood. Oftentimes, it’s hard for us to sense God’s presence in these places. But let us grow in our faith that God is just as alive in these places as He is in the place of our corporate worship. What are some ways you can serve and bless the people outside of church?

November 27, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals for November 27 to December 3 are written by David Son, who serves as the college pastor at Symphony Church in Boston. David, a graduate of UC Berkeley (B.S.) and Gordon-Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), is married to Grace, who teaches at a public school.

 

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“I Am a Sojourner”

Genesis 23:1-6

Sarah lived 127 years; these were the years of the life of Sarah. And Sarah died at Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah and to weep for her. And Abraham rose up from before his dead and said to the Hittites, “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you; give me property among you for a burying place, that I may bury my dead out of my sight.” The Hittites answered Abraham, “Hear us, my lord; you are a prince of God among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will withhold from you his tomb to hinder you from burying your dead.”

In 2010, Lebron James made a shocking announcement to the NBA world: he would be taking his talents to South Beach, Miami. For the next four years, Lebron made his home in Miami and thrived during his time there. He won two NBA championship titles for the city of Miami, became one of its most beloved citizens, and he was even called “King James.” But Lebron (and most discerning fans) knew that Lebron’s home wasn’t really in Miami. He was a sojourner there. Lebron was always destined to return to his true home. Sure enough, in 2014, Lebron made his way back home to Cleveland. But his time in Miami will always be one for the (NBA) history books.

Our passage today begins with the death of Sarah. As Abraham grieves for her, he searches for a proper burial place for his beloved wife. Approaching the Hittites, the natives of the land, he begins his request for a burial plot by saying, “I am a sojourner and foreigner among you…” Now, there are a few reasons why Abraham might have introduced himself in this way. Abraham was from Ur of the Chaldeans, and so he was literally a foreigner. But we must consider that by this time, Abraham had been in the land of Canaan for around 50 years already (he was 75 when God first called him). He had raised children, won several military battles, and became one of the most recognized citizens in the area. In fact, he is even called “prince” by the Hittites! It seems that Abraham’s self-identification as a “sojourner and foreigner” is not so much due to the novelty of his stay in Canaan, but rather because he knew that his true home was in heaven. So, although Abraham lived and thrived in various cities, he knew that he was a sojourner until he arrived at home. Perhaps this is why Abraham was able respond to God’s commands with such profound obedience.

Today, let’s be reminded that we are also sojourners in this city. This doesn’t mean we stop putting effort into our roles and responsibilities here. In fact, we ought to do our best to be excellent citizens and loving neighbors wherever we live. Nevertheless, it should be clear to us that we are sojourners and there is only one home to which we belong—and that is with God, in heaven.

Prayer: God, help us to live in this world/city without forgetting that we are just passing through. May you use every moment of our time here for Your glory. And may we respond to Your call with unhindered obedience. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 28


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 3:17-20: Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Questions to Consider

  1. In this passage, what is Paul’s primary command to the Christians in Philippians?
  2. Who might these “enemies of the cross of Christ” be?
  3. What does it mean to be a citizen of heaven?

Notes

  1. Paul’s primary command for the believers is for them to imitate him (Paul), and keep their eyes on those who walk faithful to Christ.
  2. Paul isn’t explicit here about who these people are, but he has given us enough clues here (and in other parts of this letter) for us to have a good idea of whom he is talking about. Paul is urging the believers to be careful of those who call themselves “Christians” but choose to lead others to focus on earthly things. Whether enforcing circumcision, or diet restrictions (“god is their belly”), these people made earthly things the focal point of their faith. Paul says, with tears, that their end is destruction.
  3. In contrast with having a mind set on earthly things, Paul calls us “citizens of heaven.” Citizenship implies many things on earth: For example, there are many perks, privileges, and responsibilities of being a citizen of the United States. Among the countless blessings/perks of being a citizen of heaven, Paul highlights one specific aspect: we await the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Evening Reflection

This evening, spend some time reflecting on what it means to be a sojourner in your city, at your job, on your campus. What are some ways that you could live increasingly as a citizen of heaven?

November 26, Sunday

The AMI QT Devotionals from November 20-26 are provided by Pastor Joshua Kim of Church of Southland. Joshua, a graduate of Emory University and Columbia Theological Seminary (M.Div.), serves as the pastor of Access group (singles). He is married to Christina.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Genesis 22.15-19

And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba. And Abraham lived at Beersheba.

My honest confession is that one of the hardest parts of ministry is that there are often no tangible measurements for success. Is a successful ministry measured by how many people come on Sundays? How much tithing and offering a church brings in? Is it by the number of baptisms or how many are in attendance in your small groups? Perhaps to some extent, but none of these are perfect measurements. But you can see why in such a context, it can become a temptation to rely on these things to get some level of measuring how well things are going. But what could follow, if not carefully checked and brought before the Lord, is a culture within the church where performance is always measured. And this can happen in our individual spiritual lives as well.

Our spirituality can easily become twisted into thinking that certain acts entitle us to positions or blessings in life. And this is what we could read into today’s passage. Because Abraham was obedient, because Abraham was willing to sacrifice even his one and only son, God rewards Abraham with blessings. But if you carefully look at what God will bless Abraham with, aren’t these things what God has already promised to Abraham? Is this not the details of the covenant already established back in Genesis 15?

Our obedience to God does not earn God’s blessings; they allow us to walk in God’s blessings. Our obedience to God transforms us to become the vessel that can hold God’s blessings. In the end, it is God’s grace towards us that we are able to experience His blessings. One thing we must always hold in our hearts and mind is this truth: God’s unchanging disposition is to bless.

On this Sabbath day, find rest in the fact that our God is a God who blesses. And may our hearts respond in worship of a God who loves undeserving creatures like us.

Prayer: Father, thank You for this story. There are many things that’s hard to understand, but it points us to the kind of relationship You had built with Abraham that led him to this point. It was You who initiated it, and it was You who sustained it. And I believe You want that same kind of relationship with me. As I learn to walk with You, may the purposes of God be fulfilled in my life as I walk in intimate relationship with You. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 27

 

November 25, Saturday

The AMI QT Devotionals from November 20-26 are provided by Pastor Joshua Kim of Church of Southland. Joshua, a graduate of Emory University and Columbia Theological Seminary (M.Div.), serves as the pastor of Access group (singles). He is married to Christina.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Genesis 22:7-14

And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

At the heart of the gospel message is a decision. A decision by an infinite God who chose to love a people so undeserved, unmerited, and utterly sinful. A decision made without any obligation but to Himself.

Today’s passage records another decision—the moment when Abraham chooses to put his faith into action. Everything has been prepared for the sacrifice. After carefully laying the wood in order, he binds his son and lays him on top of the altar. In this scene, it’s hard to imagine what is going on in Abraham’s mind—he gave Isaac a cryptic message earlier talking about how God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering. Was he talking about Isaac? Was he talking about the ram? It couldn’t have been the latter as the angel had to quickly intervene before the knife struck Isaac. So what was he talking about?

Commentators note that this statement expressed Abraham’s faith that even if it meant that obeying God would result in the death of his son Isaac, God would provide a way. Abraham believed in God’s promise in that Isaac would be his heir and that his seed would become a great nation. He believed God would somehow keep His promise despite seemingly impossible conditions. And we know that indeed God did provide a way. He provided a ram caught in a thicket, but more so, He provided His one and only Son.

So many parts of this story point to the sacrifice of Jesus. Mount Moriah where all this happened is where Solomon will build the temple. Mount Calvary where Jesus is crucified is located just outside of Jerusalem where the temple dwells. “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” What no animal sacrifice could ever accomplish, the perfect Son of God laid down His life as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins. What God would not have Abraham do, He did Himself.

When we trek with Abraham, getting inside his mind, wondering what it’s like to be in his shoes and to lay down his promised son on the altar, agonizing with him in making this decision to obey… and when we realize that ultimately God made that very same decision, it leads us to marvel at how great the Father’s love is for us. For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Prayer: Father, thank You for the cross. Thank You that from the beginning, You had perfect plan to rescue Your people. What You would not force us to do, You did Yourself, so that we may live. As we marvel at this truth, we worship You in response. Thank You for Jesus. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 25-26

 

November 24, Friday

The AMI QT Devotionals from November 20-26 are provided by Pastor Joshua Kim of Church of Southland. Joshua, a graduate of Emory University and Columbia Theological Seminary (M.Div.), serves as the pastor of Access group (singles). He is married to Christina.

 

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Genesis 22.1-3

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.

There is a particular moment that has defined the faith of my family. To condense it for the sake of time, my life changed dramatically at the age of thirteen. My parents had gone through a lot of transition in ministry that year where we witnessed how broken people can be even in the church. In this season of desperation, my parents sought the Lord. And through revelation and divine appointments, my parents believed that the Lord was calling them back to a church in Korea. What this meant was that they would leave my 16-year-old sister and me to live on our own in an apartment in Utah.

In today’s passage, we see one of these defining moments (perhaps the most famous one) in Abraham’s life. What’s interesting is that when we isolate the act of killing his son, it is clearly an immoral act, that is, it is a clear violation of not only human ethics but the ways of God. Yet God commands him. How do we make sense of this?

Soren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher and theologian, writes about this very event. He introduces something called the teleological suspension of the ethical. It is this notion where what is ethical is suspended because obedience to a unique calling of God for a purpose (telos) trumps what is considered moral. To overly simplify this, because God is God, obedience to Him is higher than even the moral laws.

Now, it is very dangerous to extract just this notion and apply it generally. In fact, Kierkegaard goes to great lengths to explain the kind of faith journey that leads to this unique understanding of calling. But what this story and Kierkegaard point to is not so much about this moment of decision to obey God; rather, it points to the spiritual journey that Abraham had been on with God. It is through his ongoing relationship with God that he was able to recognize this pivotal moment in his faith. This relationship that Abraham had built with God was what led him to the place where he could hear God’s voice calling out his name. And as others like Moses, Samuel, and Isaiah will later respond, Abraham was able to say, “Here I am” and obey.

Did it make sense for my parents to leave two teenagers alone in a different country? Was this the right thing to do? I can’t say for sure on a moral level, but I can confidently say that because my parents had been walking in a relationship with God and a lifestyle of honoring Him, they were able to obey. I pray that I too will be able to obey when these moments come. I pray that all of us would be in such an intimate, love relationship with God that when He speaks, we too may be able to lay it all down and say, “Here I am.”

Prayer: Father, thank You for this story. There are many things that’s hard to understand, but it points us to the kind of relationship You had built with Abraham that led him to this point. It was You who initiated it, and it was You who sustained it. And I believe You want that same kind of relationship with me. As I learn to walk with You, may the purposes of God be fulfilled in my life as I walk in intimate relationship with You. In Jesus’ Name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 24


Lunch Break Study

Read John 10.1-5: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

Questions to Consider

  1. How does the shepherd relate with the sheep? How do the sheep know him?
  2. If Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and we are the sheep, what does this passage teach us about our relationship with Him? How do we determine where we ought to go or what we need to do?
  3. How does this passage challenge your notion of what is right or wrong? How does this change how you might view your life?

Notes

  1. The key word here is voice. The shepherd is recognized by his voice, as he calls his own to him. He leads them out, and the sheep follow by his voice.
  2. First thing is that this passage doesn’t limit us to the audible voice of God. It does point us to the fact that our Good Shepherd speaks to us, and when He speaks, He leads us and goes before us. To go deeper, what we consider right or wrong is no longer dictated by our own thoughts, but it is anchored on His voice. In other words, where we go, what we do is not in relation to Him who leads us.
  3. Personal response. In what ways is the Good Shepherd speaking to you that you might be resisting because according to our determination of what is good or right doesn’t quite match how He is speaking to us?

Evening Reflection

The best life we can possibly live here on earth is to live in utter obedience and dependence on Him, even when it seems crazy or radical. Of course, there is wisdom and discernment that is involved, but what is clear is that all of this cannot be determined outside of an intimate relationship with Him. In what ways is God calling you to a deeper intimacy with Him? Respond to Him in prayer and commit yourself.