April 12, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Child-like Faith”

Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.

I LOVE to do this to my 2-year-old nephew: I would play music via a Bluetooth speaker, but whenever he touches the speaker, I pulse the music from my phone; when he moves his hands away, music will continue. I explained to him that this speaker can sense his touch and only he can stop the music (of course!). Without doubting for a second, he believed me. He would put his hand on and off the speaker over and over again, just to test his “power” and then laugh so happily every time the music stops.  (Poor kid! Aunt is so sorry!)

In today’s message, Jesus tells the disciples to receive the kingdom of God like a little child. So what is so special about receiving like a child? From my little nephew’s example, can you imagine how these children would react after Jesus told them about the kingdom of God? They probably jumped up and down and shouted with joy, just as if they were told that they could eat ice cream all day long. And what would happen after Jesus placed His hands and blessed them? They probably would all cling onto Him, pleading for more—just as how they would beg their parents for more bed-time stories.

As we grow up, all of us have to get on a roller coaster called “life”—the drudgery of work, the loss of good health, unbearable hurts and betrayals which has led to great fear and uncertainties; all these things which can hinder us from believing without questioning that our Heavenly Father desires to greatly bless us. Jesus’ version of the kingdom of God—where there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain—can sound too good to be true, when we look at our version of the “kingdom of reality.”

However, God is not like the naughty aunt playing tricks to a two-year-old kid. He asks His children to trust in a hope that does not put us to shame. He desires to see us trusting Him like a child, so He can reveal to us how He protects His children: “He who did not spare His own son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). The question is, are we willing to receive this good news as simply as a child?

Prayer: Dear Lord, please grant us a child-like heart today. We want to be more excited about Your Kingdom like a little child, and trust that You desire to bless us more than we can imagine. We place all the uncertainties and fear before Your feet and we say goodbye to all the “what-ifs” that hinder us from trusting You completely. Bless us today as we eagerly plead like a child; place Your hands on us so that all can see Your good deeds and praise Your Name on high. In Your Name we pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Phil 4


Lunch Break Study 

Read Romans 8:14-16: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.

Questions to Consider

  1. What changes take place after we receive the Spirit of God?
  2. What does it mean for us to be called “children of God”?
  3. Is it difficult for you to cry out “Abba, Father!” when facing difficult moments in your life? If so, what do you think hinders you?

Notes

  1. The Spirit of God reminds us of who we are—that we are no longer slaves to fear but children of God.
  2. The book of Romans reminds us that if we are God’s children, we are granted the “quick-pass” to the Almighty God and His Kingdom. Even better: we are heirs of God! We get to share the eternal glory together with our Abba Father.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

Did you encounter a moment where you just chose to simply trust God like a little child today? Did you feel the joy coming out of trusting Him?  Review your day here.

April 11, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Wrong Way”

Mark 10:17-31

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”  Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.  Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is[b]to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

In ancient China, there was a nobleman who rode in a fancy coach on a long journey. On the way, he stopped by and asked a farmer how long it would take for him to reach his destination. The farmer told the nobleman, “You’re going the wrong way! It’s in the opposite direction!”

The nobleman laughed and said, “Don’t worry, my horse is strong.” Then the farmer responded, “You may have a strong horse, but you are heading in the wrong direction!” The nobleman dismissed the farmer’s concern. “It’ll be fine; my coach can run very fast!” Finally, the farmer told him, “The stronger your horse is, and the faster your coach can go, the further it is going to take you from your destination.”

Like this nobleman in that story, the man who came to Jesus totally misunderstands the way to inherit eternal life. The young man thought that if he obeys the law, does good deeds, completes enough achievements, then his series of performances can bring him eternal life. But Jesus tells the young man two unexpected things that he must do to inherit eternal life: First, he is to sell all that he has and give these proceeds to the poor, and next, to follow Jesus. This means he need to give up all of his treasures, to surrender these things which held the young man so strongly, and totally, completely, utterly submit to Jesus. That is the very key to inherit eternal life, which seems to be an impossible standard that no man can achieve. But meanwhile, Jesus also points out that it is only through God that we can achieve eternal life.

As believers who are good at following a bunch of rules, sometimes we are like those who think that through our achievements, laws or performances, we gain the right to inherit eternal life. But, actually, the more we live our Christian faith with this way of thinking, the more we will disown our inheritance of eternal life. Jesus gives us the only right way to do this—that is, as we come to recognize what Jesus did on the cross and rely on Him 100%, then we can truly be humble before the Lord and accept the fullness of His grace.

Prayer: Dear Lord, please humble our hearts and open our eyes so that we can truly understand what You have done for us. It has nothing to do with what we have done, but what You had done on the cross. As believers, we do what we do only because we want to truly know You and build a relationship with You. We want to honor You and glorify You. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen!

Bible Reading for Today: Philippians 3


Lunch Break Study 

Read Colossians 1:15-23: The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of[g] your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Questions to Consider

  1. According to Paul, in whom do we have redemption and the forgiveness of sins?
  2. In verses 15-18, how does Paul describe Jesus?
  3. How does a clear picture of our redemption and the identity of Jesus will help you to better understand the relationship between you and God?

Notes

  1. Jesus, the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and shows us the love of God. Any attempt to have redemption and the forgiveness of sins without the work on the Cross fails.
  2. Jesus is the image of God and the firstborn; all things were created by Him and for Him, and He has the supremacy in everything.
  3. Everything is made for God and by Him, so it is our desire to bring glory to Jesus through anything we do. God is not our servant, but we are His to do His will and thereafter share in His glory.

Evening Reflection

As believers, we easily fall into relying on our own righteousness rather than the grace of God. In our daily life, we do things that give glory to ourselves rather than give glory to God. Let us take some time to think how we can truly give glory to God though our daily life. If there is anything that can make us self-righteousness, we should repent before the Lord and ask the Holy Spirit to help us, so we can have a better understanding of what God want us to be rather than what we want to be.

April 10, Tuesday

Devotion for Today

 “First shall be Last.”

Mark 9:30-37

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

A couple of years ago, our small groups went through a workshop called, “When Helping Hurts.” This material taught us the best way to help those without homes, without hurting them. While the material did give practical suggestions, it taught us that the only way to truly help the homeless community was to change our perception of ourselves. Rather than coming from an “I am better off than you, so let me help you” mentality, we need to recognize that we are no different. Because of our sin and our wretchedness, we are in need of Jesus to rescue us. It is only through this lens, that we can truly embrace those without homes. Through embracing the marginalized, we are embracing Jesus.

In this passage, Jesus sits with the Twelve and talks about the “Upside down kingdom.” He mentions in verse 35, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” However, to make His point clearer, He equates welcoming a child to welcoming the Father. How do these two verses connect?

In ancient Israel, children were considered fundamentally deficient and not yet human in a full sense. They were physically small, underdeveloped, and vulnerable.[1] This child represented all people who were disregarded by society; the weak, the poor, the sick, those without homes, tax collectors, and prostitutes.

I believe Jesus is telling us that in order to become first in the kingdom of God, we need to embrace those who are marginalized in our society. More than just meeting their physical needs, followers of Jesus need to welcome them with open arms. Because of our sin, this difficult act requires us to lower ourselves and to see that they are no different than us. This cannot be accomplished by our own strength, but only through the transformational work of the Holy Spirit! Today, let’s spend some time asking the Lord to give us hearts of compassion for the marginalized people of our society. As we embrace the oppressed, we embrace the Father.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You that you are a compassionate Father. Please remove any obstacles in my heart that prevents me from seeing that I am no different than the oppressed. Help me to love them the way You love them. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Phil 2


Lunch Break Study

Read Micah 6:6-16: “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you? Answer me. I brought you up out of Egypt and redeemed you from the land of slavery. I sent Moses to lead you, also Aaron and Miriam. My people, remember what Balak king of Moab plotted and what Balaam son of Beor answered. Remember your journey from Shittim to Gilgal, that you may know the righteous acts of the Lord.” With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Listen! The Lord is calling to the city—and to fear your name is wisdom—“Heed the rod and the One who appointed it.[b] Am I still to forget your ill-gotten treasures, you wicked house, and the short ephah,[c] which is accursed? Shall I acquit someone with dishonest scales, with a bag of false weights? Your rich people are violent your inhabitants are liars and their tongues speak deceitfully. Therefore, I have begun to destroy you, to ruin[d] you because of your sins. You will eat but not be satisfied; your stomach will still be empty. eYou will store up but save nothing, because what you save[f] I will give to the sword. You will plant but not harvest; you will press olives but not use the oil, you will crush grapes but not drink the wine. You have observed the statutes of Omri and all the practices of Ahab’s house; you have followed their traditions. Therefore I will give you over to ruin and your people to derision; you will bear the scorn of the nations.[g]

Questions to Consider

  1. In verses 3-5, what is the Lord’s attitude when He begins His case against the Israelites?
  2. According to verse 8, what does the Lord require of Israel?
  3. How does the Lord judge the Israelite’s wickedness? (see vv. 14-15)

Notes

  1. The Lord begins with questions which reveal the Lord’s sadness for His people. The Lord reminds them all that He has done for them. Yet, Israelites reject His love by acting wickedly.
  2. The Lord requires the Israelites to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with their God.
  3. The Lord judges the Israelites by taking away their blessing. The imagery He uses in verse 14-15 show that the Israelites will work hard but never reap the benefits.

Evening Reflection

Today, we learned that to be first in the kingdom of God, we need to be last. Jesus gives us a practical advice of how to follow this kingdom principle. He calls us to love and embrace those who are oppressed and broken. Spend some time this evening asking the Lord to give us strength to take the first step to love those who are marginalized in our society.

April 9, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals from April 9-15 are provided by Emerson Lin.  Emerson, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, serves as a missionary in E. Asia. He is married to Annie.

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Confirmed”

Mark 9:2-8

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

Kobe Beef is known all around the world as a very expensive type of beef. It is valued for its fatty flavor, tenderness, and marbled texture. People from all over the world travel to Hyōgo to taste this delicacy. Because Japan takes their Kobe Beef very seriously, each meat has a certificate indicating that it is certified Kobe Beef. Not only do they provide a certificate, but also a cow genealogy to ensure people that the meat they are eating is authentic.

Like the certified delicacy, Jesus’ deity is confirmed twice, not only to His closest disciples, but to us. In this passage, Peter, James, and John climb up a mountain with Jesus. All of a sudden, they stand in awe of Jesus’ transfiguration. Mark describes that Jesus’ clothes became dazzling white—whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. For a short time, the disciples saw a small glimpse of Jesus’ true nature as the Son of God. Their teacher was not simply a prophet that God used, but He was God himself. If that confirmation was not enough, the disciples heard the audible voice of God saying, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Jesus’ confirmations as the Son of God not only reminded me of His power and authority, but also of His humility. Jesus willingly let go of His glory and perfect intimacy with our Father, so that we may have the opportunity to experience the same glory! This morning, if you have not done so already, let’s give thanks for Jesus’ sacrificial love for us. It is through His sacrifice that we may have this relationship with our Father.

Prayer: Father, thank You so much that you confirmed Jesus’ identity through His transfiguration. Not only did you reveal Jesus’ glory, but You also remind us of His sacrifice for all of humanity. Like the disciples, may we continue to be in awe of you! Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Phil. 1


Lunch Break Study

Read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21: So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin[b] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Questions to Consider:

  1. According to this passage, what do we become when we become “in Christ?”
  2. How is that people’s sin would not be counted against them?
  3. What do we become, now that we have been committed to the message of reconciliation?

Notes:

  1. We become a new creation once we are in Christ!
  2. Jesus gave us the ministry of reconciliation so that people’s sins would not be counted against them.
  3. When we commit to the message of reconciliation, we become Christ’s ambassadors. According to the passage, through us, God is making His appeal of grace to humanity.

Evening Reflection

In light of today’s sharing, what are some practical ways that you can imitate Christ’s humility? What are some obstacles in your life that prevent you from sacrificing for others? Write down a list of these obstacles and ask the Holy Spirit to help you overcome them.

April 8, Sunday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Love Overrides Shame”

Mark 8:38

For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

In my college years, I was incredibly anxious about the idea of marriage. Even though I knew I wanted to get married, eventually, so many things about marriage scared me. Perhaps the scariest thing for me was the proposal. For some reason, whether through movies or people telling me grandiose stories about the proposal of a friend of a friend, I had gotten it in my mind that my proposal had to be this epic, historic event… otherwise my fiancée wouldn’t be happy. In college, I wasn’t even dating yet, but the thought of having to put together such a monumental feat made my palms sweat just thinking about it. There’s something about making a public declaration that makes most people at least a little bit nervous.

Perhaps that’s why many Christians are ashamed, or scared, about being public in their walk with Jesus. For me, the thought of evangelism evokes many of the same anxieties I had when I was thinking about proposals in college; it’s the fear of standing out for something you believe in. Even Jesus’ disciples went through this. When Jesus was arrested, just before He was crucified, Peter was asked multiple times if he was a follower of Jesus; and Peter, out of fear, denied even knowing Him. Yet when Jesus encounters Peter alone again, He restores him by asking him three times, “Do you love me?”

In a profound way, love overrides shame. When it came time for me to propose to Grace, now my wife, I was still a bit scared and nervous. But my love for her overcame whatever fear existed within. Also, I came to the realization that what she actually wanted wasn’t the most exuberant proposal in all of human history, but rather, a sincere confession of my love for her.

In a similar way, when it comes to living out our faith in the public arena, we shouldn’t just willpower our way into being witnesses. Instead, we have to remember our love for Jesus, because our love for Him can override any shame that exist within. And I believe that what Jesus is asking us to do isn’t necessarily to put on the largest spectacle, but rather, demonstrate a sincere confession of our love for Him. The main question then becomes, “Do I love Him?” Let’s spend some time today renewing and reminding our hearts in our love for Jesus.

Prayer: Jesus, we love You. We sing about it all the time, but it’s also a reality in our hearts. Help us to love You more. Out of our love for You, we also want to be unashamed. Help us to overcome any fears that reside within our hearts. You know us better than anyone and so we have nothing to hide from You. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Joel 3

April 7, Saturday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“The Son of Man Must Suffer”

Mark 8:31-33

And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Did you know that Jesus is included in the Quran? In the Islam faith, Jesus is known as one of the 25 prophets of Allah. It may intrigue you to know that even the Quran describes Jesus as a virgin-conceived, benevolent, miracle-working, sinless servant of God. But there’s an interesting and critical omission regarding the life of Jesus in the Quran. See, in the Quran, Jesus is never crucified. He never suffers at the hands of the Romans, He never gets spit upon, or whipped, and He is never put to death on a cross. Why not? Well, simply put, from a Muslim point of view, Allah would never allow an innocent, sinless man to suffer in this way. Especially since He was a great man, He would never be assigned to such a fate because He did not deserve it.

Perhaps in this train of thought, Peter had come to a similar conclusion. In our passage, when Jesus began foretelling His suffering and death, Peter took offense and began to rebuke Jesus. In his mind, he could not fathom the possibility of the Messiah going through such turmoil and defeat. What kind of God would allow such suffering to happen to the Chosen One, the One He loved? But Jesus replies with what may be one of the strongest rebukes of all time: “Get behind me, Satan!” Why does Jesus respond so aggressively to Peter’s misconception? Because if you miss the death and resurrection of Jesus, you’ve missed a crucial aspect of who our God is. He is not only a benevolent, miracle-working, sinless, teacher… He also laid down, His life as a ransom for many! Without the death and resurrection of Christ, there is no hope for us, and there is no gospel.

Most people in this world acknowledge that Jesus was a good person, that His teachings hold moral value, and that He was in general, a benevolent teacher. Some may even credit Him with performing signs and wonders. But what sets Christians distinctly apart is none of the above. Then what sets a Christian apart? It is our faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection. In other words, everything about our faith hinges on this one truth: that our God came and died to redeem us and rose again that we might also walk in newness of life.

It’s been six days since Easter. Let us remind ourselves again of what Jesus has done for us by going to the cross and rising up again. He gave up His own rights in order to give us the right to become sons and daughters of God. Praise be to God, whose thoughts and ways are higher than ours!

Prayer: God, thank You for who You are. Thank You that You gave yourself up on the cross. Thank You for rising again. Help us to walk in newness of life, as those who have been redeemed by You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Joel 1-2

April 6, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“I do, we do, you do”

Mark 8:1

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.” And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?” And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?” They said, “Seven.” And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied. And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.

“I do, we do, you do.” My wife is a teacher in Boston, and this is one of the phrases I hear her use all the time. If I were a teacher, the idea is that in order for me to teach something, an effective strategy is for me to first demonstrate the action while the students observe (I do). Then, I repeat the action, but this time I incorporate the participation of the students, while still being involved in the step-by-step process (we do). Finally, I pull my hands out of the process and let the students do it a third time, on their own (you do).

In our passage today, I see Jesus implementing a similar strategy. Amongst a hungry crowd of 4,000, He takes the seven loaves of bread and miraculously multiplies it while His disciples observe (I do). Then, He takes the bread and distributes it by putting it into the disciple’s hands (we do). Finally, His disciples take what the Lord has given them, and in turn distributes them to all the people (you do). And all the people ate and were satisfied.

Why did Jesus do it this way? He could have made the bread multiply and appear in everyone’s lap. Better yet, He could have made bread fall from the sky, and it would have been a much more spectacular sight. Yet, Jesus chose to use a ministry strategy that involved the participation of His disciples. This is a pattern that comes up all the time in Scripture: although God can accomplish His will on His own, time after time, He chooses to use ordinary people as instruments for doing His work. This is still true today! God’s Kingdom is advancing through His people, the Church! That means that wherever He has placed you today—whether it’s work, school, the home, or the office—you are the vehicle of God’s ministry in that place. The only difference in the “you do” phase of this is that God never pulls His hands out of the process. Instead, even as “you do” His work, He is always with us.

Prayer: Father, You are always at work, and Your Kingdom is continuously advancing around us. Help us to recognize that the various arenas that You have placed us in are opportunities for us to be involved in Your work. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ephesians 6


Lunch Break Study

Read John 16:7: “…Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you…”

Acts 1:8-9: “…But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

Questions to Consider

  1. According to these passages, why was it “better” for Jesus to ascend to heaven and depart from His disciples?
  2. What did Jesus say would happen when the Holy Spirit comes?
  3. Who is called to carry out the rest of Jesus’ mission on this earth?

Notes

  1. I’ve always thought that being alive during Jesus’ time on earth would have been the greatest experience. And it probably was, in many ways. But here, Jesus says that it is to our advantage that He goes away to the Father, because then the Holy Spirit would come. What is this advantage? Because Jesus took on a physical body, His direct Presence was only available in one location at a time; on the other hand, the Holy Spirit is essentially the direct Presence of Christ dwelling within every believer in every location at every time! This is a brilliant strategy by our God!
  2. Jesus says that when the Holy Spirit comes, we will receive power! What kind of power is this? In short, it’s the same power that Jesus has, because the Holy Spirit who lives within us is God!
  3. It’s crystal clear. We, who are the bearers of God’s Holy Presence, are the ones who are called to finish the mission. Our role is to be witnesses of everything that God has done.

Evening Reflection

Spend some time thinking of the five people you spend the most time with in your week. Maybe it includes a co-worker, a roommate, or a family member. How is God working in each of these five people? How can you join in what God is working in them? Perhaps this is part of your call, to be a vehicle of God’s grace to these people that He has placed in your life.

April 5, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

Mark 7:32-35

And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

There are several members of our church who study or work in the field of Occupational Therapy. From my limited understanding, the job of an occupational therapist (OT) is to evaluate a person’s physical/mental disability, and use individualized intervention strategies to help people do meaningful daily activities. For example, if someone has suffered a stroke and has lost motor control of their right arm, an OT would help this person figure out a strategy to rehabilitate their arm and/or help them relearn how to do their daily tasks such as typing, putting on clothes, eating, etc. What I found remarkable is that an OT’s work is extremely specific to the person(s) they are treating. In other words, their method of healing is constantly shifting, based on each individual and their specific situation/need.

If Jesus hadn’t been a carpenter, He might have been an occupational therapist, because much like OT’s, Jesus seems to minister to each individual based on his or her specific situation/need! In our passage today, Jesus encounters a man who was unable to hear or speak. Jesus uses a very unique and interesting way to minister unto him: He sticks His fingers in the man’s ears, and after spitting, touches the man’s tongue. What’s with the strange methods? Well, Jesus is ministering to this man in a way that he can understand—through touch!

Our God knows your exact situation. He intimately understands everything going on in your life! In fact, in many of the broken areas of our lives, only a touch from God can bring any kind of progress/breakthrough. Today, let us open our hearts and allow the Great Physician to touch us.

Prayer: God, help us to understand even more the depth of Your love for us. We ask You to come and touch the areas of our hearts, minds, and bodies that need Your healing. Thank You that even though You are the King of kings, You love to love us. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ephesians 5


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 18:18-27: And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” But he said, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Questions to Consider

  1. According to the passage, what hindered this man from following Jesus?
  2. What does Jesus require that this man do, in order to follow Him?
  3. What do you think Jesus means when He says, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Notes

  1. This man was a real stand-up guy. He had obeyed all the commandments of the Lord from his youth! Yet, Jesus saw that there was still something in his heart that wasn’t fully surrendered: his wealth.
  2. Jesus commands the man to sell everything he has and distribute it to the poor. Then He explains that the man would have treasure in heaven. And then Jesus invites him to follow Him. But the man walks away sad. It seems that his earthly treasures were of more value to him than the heavenly ones.
  3. The point of this passage is not to say that money is inherently evil. But it is a warning of the difficulty of entering the kingdom of God when you have wealth. But the reality is… it’s difficult for ANYONE to enter the kingdom of God—impossible, in fact. Whether it’s wealth, addictions, pride, we all have idols in our hearts that we cannot escape from on our own. Jesus’ point is that salvation is ultimately made possible through God… not through the efforts of man. By this reasoning, none of us are worthy of the kingdom, but anyone can enter by trusting in God.

Evening Reflection

Today, we discovered that our God ministers to us personally and intimately. Whether it’s an area that needs His healing touch, or an area that needs correction, our God knows exactly what we need in every season of our lives. Spend some time this evening reflecting on the ways that God might want to touch your life right now.

April 4, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Yes Lord; yet…”

Mark 7:24-30

And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden. But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Yes, Lord; yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” And he said to her, “For this statement you may go your way; the demon has left your daughter.” And she went home and found the child lying in bed and the demon gone.

As a child, I grew up under the notion that one must never question God. I believed that doing so would not only be a show of irreverence to Him, but also signaled a lack of faith. And while I still certainly believe that we ought to be reverent to the Lord, when I look at Scripture, I see many men and women of faith asking questions and making requests to the Lord:  In Genesis 18, Abraham is, in a sense, bargaining with God to spare the city of Sodom. In Judges 6, Gideon asks God for multiple signs. In 1 Samuel 1, Hannah pleads with God, that He would give her a child. The Psalms are full of questions being raised up to God: “How long, O Lord?  Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?” These are just a few examples of Scripture that lead me to believe that our Heavenly Father is not only willing to hear our questions/requests, but He desires to respond to us!

Our passage today is perhaps one of the boldest moves I’ve ever read about in the Bible. The Syrophoenician woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter, but Jesus initially denies her request, indicating that His ministry is primarily for the Jews. At this moment, I might have walked away. After all, who am I to question Jesus? However, this woman’s response is incredible: “Yes, Lord; yet…” Captured in those three words, I believe, is the correct attitude with which we ought to present our requests to God: with reverent submission.

I love Jesus’ response. He grants her request by delivering her daughter of demon oppression, and in doing so he reveals that our God is not only sovereign but also graciously relational. Today, let’s remember that we can bring our questions and requests to our Father. He is not angry at us for asking questions; on the contrary, I believe that our Father is eager to respond to our requests.

Prayer: Thank You, Jesus, for pausing and loving on this Syrophoenician woman, even though it wasn’t really her place to be asking You for things. It’s none of our places to be asking You for things, and yet You never turn down a desperate, contrite heart. Help us to come to You today as Your children, in humble submission, but also with boldness and confidence, knowing that you love to hear from us. In Your name we pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ephesians 4


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 4:5b-6: The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.        

Questions to Consider

  1. According to the passage, what truth allows us to not be anxious about anything?
  2. How, and with what attitude, are we to let our requests be made known to God?
  3. In what situations/circumstances are we to hold to these truths?

Notes

  1. The passage begins with this truth: “The Lord is at hand.” “At hand” simply means “near.” This is the truth that establishes the foundation upon which we are able to walk in the next two commands.
  2. How do we make requests unto God? By prayer and supplication (supplication is a “prayer of asking”). With what attitude are we to pray? With thanksgiving!
  3. Paul says not to be anxious about ANYTHING, but in EVERYTHING, we should pray with thanksgiving, making our requests to God. That means that this is applicable in all situations and circumstances. And the reason is because “the Lord is at hand.”

Evening Reflection

Today, we read about the Syrophoenician woman who desperately pleaded with Jesus regarding her daughter who was oppressed by a demon. When was the last time you were desperate for the Lord? Most of us would agree, at least in our minds, that we couldn’t live without Jesus. But how often do we feel this desperation for His presence? This evening, let’s remember our need for God and rekindle our desperation for more of Him.