May 17, Sunday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on March 23, 2013; it has been updated. Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Be Honest to God”

Psalm 39:12-13

“Hear my prayer, O Lord, listen to my cry for help, be not deaf to my weeping.  For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger as all my fathers were.  Look away from me that I may rejoice again before I depart and am no more.” 

liubov-ilchuk-xHfWl35OOsg-unsplashTimes of disorientation—like the pandemic that has turned our lives upside down—are a necessary part of growth and they are painful by definition.  Consider the life of David.

On the road to becoming the king of Israel and the man after God’s own heart, King David loses his best friend, is hunted down like a criminal, and suffers through a broken marriage.  Anything tragic that you can imagine, it probably happened in the life of David.  It is no wonder that he ends Psalm 39 with these words that seem borderline blasphemy because David is essentially saying to God, “Get out of my life so that I can be happy again.”

To some degree, he is correct in his assessment of his life.  If God had not called him to become king over his father-in-law (Saul), he would have avoided a lot of the trouble.  In his pain, David actually articulates to God the very thing that many of us are afraid to express.  Psalm 39 is the only psalm that ends with such a negative tone and most likely represents the lowest point of David’s life.  Some people ask me if we are allowed to pray this way and I usually tell them, this is where authentic prayer begins.

Walter Brueggemann, in his book Praying the Psalms, writes: “The Psalms, with a few exceptions, are not the voice of God addressing us.  They are rather the voice of our own common humanity….”  Not surprisingly, since this is the voice of people like us, the psalms reveals all of our own frailties, our fears, our anger, our doubts, and even the expression of those things we thought we couldn’t be honest about.  And many of us, overwhelmed by a sense of loss brought on by the unforeseen pandemic, are feeling this way at the present moment. 

Be honest with God. I have always said that those who can’t be honest with God can’t be honest with others, and worst of all, cannot be honest with themselves.  Prayer has to be an open and genuine dialogue with God.  Spend time this coming week in authentic communication with God and listen for his voice.  Turn this pandemic into a great opportunity to become really intimate with the Lord.

Prayer: Lord, help me to sense Your presence amid all the turmoil.  Let me not forget that You are in the midst of the storms of my life and are always watching over me.  Strengthen me to never let You go but hold tightly to Your outstretched arm.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 24

May 16, Saturday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought is a reprint of Kate Moon’s blog originally posted on May 3, 2014.  Kate continues to serve the Lord in E. Asia.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Integrity”

Titus 1:6-7

“An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.”

Reasons why our eyes may glaze over when we start reading this passage:

  1. I am not old.
  2. I am not a man, or if I am, I don’t have a wife.
  3. I don’t have children.
  4. I kind of like the idea of being wild and disobedient.

jesse-bowser-SpZWvCkjTwc-unsplash copy

Kidding aside, if that were not enough, when we consider that these are one person’s instructions to another on how to choose leaders for newly-planted churches, our distance from the passage seems even further.  How many of us are in a position to be doing such a thing?  As we read on, we may be able to concede that yes, being overbearing, quick-tempered, violent, dishonest and prone to drunkenness are not desirable and to be avoided.  But what do these standards have to do with me?  After all, I am neither an elder (an overseer in a church) nor am I considering becoming one.

But all Scripture is God-breathed and useful . . . (2 Timothy 3:16), and so we look again.  What does God’s word have for us today?  If we take a few steps back from the immediate context, one thing we can see is the connection Paul makes between the way a person conducts themselves in their personal lives, and how they could function in a larger, more public sphere (here, the corporate life of the church).  Paul says that the same qualities that make someone a good husband and father would make that person a good overseer of the family, that is, the church.

Basically, he is talking about integrity.

The concept of “integrity” has to do with wholeness; having a consistency across all areas of one’s life.  How different from the values the world upholds.  Though scandals can arise and surround a public figure, the final verdict of public opinion seems to be that one’s private life does not matter as long as one’s public performance is good enough.

Affected by this sentiment – though in our heart of hearts we know something is terribly wrong with it – how often do we ourselves have things backwards, spending much time grooming our public personas, while we allow other areas of our lives – important but less visible to the public eye – fall into neglect?

Let’s spend some time this weekend thinking about what relationships in our lives need more attention, what areas of our character we really need to work on, and then do something about it.

Let’s also spend some time praying for those who are called to be or even appoint church leaders, that people of integrity would be found to lead throughout all the churches in AMI.

Prayer: Lord, help me to take this matter of integrity with the utmost seriousness and pursue it as if my life depends on it, for without it, I know I will be a very poor testament to Your holiness.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 22-23

May 15, Friday

UPDATED The AMI QT Devotional for today, an updated version of his blog first posted on August 5, 2014, is provided by Phillip Chen who is the associate pastor at Kairos Christian Church in San Diego.  Phil is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.).


Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Examine Yourself to See Whether You Are Saved”

John 1:11-13

He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

nordwood-themes-FnOoRU-PYio-unsplash“If you die today, do you think you will make it to heaven?”  Such a direct question but 2 Corinthians 13:5 (below) exhorts us to revisit that matter from time to time.

If you go anywhere where there are many sheep, you’ll see a strange sight: You’ll see a little lamb running around with an extra fleece tied on its back, a fleece with 4 holes for its leg and a hole for its neck. Usually that means its mother has died, and without the protection and nourishment of a mother sheep, the orphan lamb will die. If you take an orphan lamb and try to introduce it to another mother sheep, the new mother will reject the lamb because it doesn’t recognize the smell, realizing that it’s not her ewe. Now, usually, a flock is big enough where there is a mother that had a recent ewe pass away. The shepherds will skin the dead ewe and make its fleece into a covering for the orphan lamb and take it to the mother whose baby just died. She will accept it as her own because she’ll sniff the scent of her baby ewe and allow it to be nursed.

In the same way, we as orphans have become acceptable by being clothed by the righteousness of Christ. The Gospel of John reminds us that since we have rejected him, God should (rightfully) reject us because we are not his. But because of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world by shedding his own blood for us (John 1:29), we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Romans 13:14) so that we are welcomed as sons and daughters of God:  We are given the right to become children of God. What does this mean for us today? It means that we do not earn our right as children of God through good works, but that being a son or daughter of God is a positional one by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8-9), solely because of the blood of Christ that covers us, for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22).

Brothers and sister, amid so many deaths brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, “examine yourself to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.  Do you not realize that Christ Jesus in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:5).

Prayer: Lord, thank you for the work you did on the cross. Remind me today that it is not what I do or not do that makes me a child of God, but it is what you did on the cross. From that, may my heart be postured in a way that responds thankfully as a beloved child of God.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 21


Lunch Break Study

Read Galatians 4:1-7 (ESV): I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

Questions to consider

  1. What does this passage say we were enslaved to?
  2. In the context of this passage, what is the function of the Holy Spirit?
  3. What do we receive as sons of God?

Notes

  1. We were once slaves to sin, to the passions and lusts of our flesh, but now we are God’s children.
  2. The Holy Spirit testifies of our sonship (Romans 8:16).
  3. The idea of adoption to sonship was a legal term that indicated a rightful claim in the inheritance. We have a rightful claim as sons of God to the spiritual inheritance of a heavenly kingdom that awaits us.

Evening Reflection

carolyn-v-_A2W6kE_jEE-unsplashIn light of the reminder that we are God’s children, a simple but provocative truth, have we affirmed this truth in our hearts? Are there ways where we question our position as children of God based off of what we do or don’t do? Also, when we take an inventory of our lives, what are things that have changed of our “then” (slaves to sin) versus our “now” (child of God)? What are things that are changing or need to be changed as we continue to be transformed into the likeness of Christ?

May 14, Thursday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is written by Andrew Kim who serves as the executive pastor at Tapestry Church in Los Angeles.  Andrew, a graduate of Eternity Bible College, is currently attending Fuller Theological Seminary. 

Devotional Thought for Today

“Why We Struggle with Resting”

Matthew 11:25-30

 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

james-bold-lMQv3xVa8X4-unsplash The pandemic has provided us with what we might call a forced sabbatical—a chance to slow down, catch our breath, and finally rest. This is a great opportunity since we haven’t found much time to recuperate while living in a culture of busyness and packed schedules. However, one thing I’ve come to realize is that rest takes hard work; it’s not as easy as one might think. You see, our culture does not understand the complexities of rest. It sees rest simply as the cessation of activity. Rest is equated with entertainment, travel, and simply finding new experiences. But I would venture to say that these are at best either momentary distractions that make us feel better for a moment, or ways to medicate and distract ourselves from the exhaustion and difficulties of life. The proof is in the fact that many of us still find ourselves tired even after going on vacation or entertaining ourselves.

It seems to me that the true source of our weariness is this inner struggle to feel good enough. There is a deep soul level striving to prove ourselves as worthy and lovable. And this produces within us a restlessness that keeps us constantly striving even when we’re not working. Have you noticed people who have obsessive work ethics? Many of them are driven by the fear that if they don’t succeed, it will undermine their sense of identity and value. For this reason, even while attempting to rest, their soul is still hard at work—trying to secure their worth. We all do this in various ways, whether with our relationships, careers, or reputation. We try to rest but it’s hard for our hearts to be still. We are filled with anxiety and need. Entertainment and vacations might provide a momentary reprieve from the anxiety, but it doesn’t give us the true rest we’re longing for. We can only experience true rest when that deep soul level striving to be good enough has been dealt with. What we actually need is what Jesus calls “rest for our souls.”

In today’s passage, Jesus provides the means by which to find rest from our deep inner striving. Prior to this passage, Jesus has been indicting the Jewish leadership for placing a heavy yoke on the people of Israel. A yoke that calls them to meet the impossible standards of the law in order to be good enough before God- a similar struggle that we all wrestle with in our attempt to meet the standards of our career, relationships, and reputation. However, Jesus calls those who are tired and weary, and offers them a yoke that is easy and light. It is light because He would take our failures, our shortcomings, and our inability to meet the requirements of the law to the cross on our behalf and make us good enough through His righteousness and sacrifice. For this reason, we will only find true rest if we surrender our inner soul striving to be good enough on our own and take up the yoke of Jesus and find our “good enough” in Him alone.

Prayer: Father, I confess that I am weary and tired from everything that is going on. Everything from the pandemic to my own sense of insecurity and feeling not good enough. I surrender that before You and ask that You would help me to find my value, worth, and identity in the work of your Son Jesus Christ!  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 21


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 3:2-11: Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Where did Paul’s sense of righteousness come from prior to meeting Christ?
  2. Where does Paul gain his sense of righteousness (a sense that he’s good enough) and why does it depend on faith?
  3. Where do you place your own confidence?

Notes

  1. Paul makes a list of his achievements in v.3-6 that he has done before coming to Christ. In a way, he was the model Jew, who fulfilled much of the law and was passionate about what he thought God was about. He had status as one of the elites as a pharisee.
  2. He counts all the things he has achieved as rubbish in comparison to the righteousness given to him by Jesus. It depends on faith because it’s not something he can earn by working harder or doing more, but can only be received in surrendering his prior confidence for a confidence rooted in the work of Jesus.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

ian-keefe-LiKtiYl0GTQ-unsplashTake some time and reflect on where you find your sense of value, worth, and identity. If it’s not in Jesus, take some time to surrender those things up to God and ask Him to help you find your confidence and security in Christ alone.

May 13, Wednesday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Cami King who serves as associate pastor at Remnant Church in Manhattan, is an updated version of her blog first posted on April 2, 2014.  Cami is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning

“Our God the Deliverer”

Galatians 1:3-5

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

georgia-de-lotz-exEMJJMQ8cM-unsplashI love these few verses because they give us a snapshot of some pretty awesome revelation regarding what God’s been up to for the last . . . I don’t know . . . many thousands of years.

I’m a bit of a sermon junkie, and I recently listened to a sermon series discussing the reasons why God would become a human and die on a cross (essentially the pastor asked, “Why in the world would God do that?!”).  I mean, really . . . if we think about it, it seems a little absurd.  I sometimes imagine I could come up with a slew of other ways to save the people I created from the mess they created (and none of those ways requiring me to be so utterly inconvenienced, to say the least, and certainly not brutally murdered as Jesus was).  But our infinitely loving and wise Creator has ways and plans that far surpass our own. And in this passage we see them pretty well laid out. God became a person and died on a cross for the purpose of delivering us. That’s it right there. From incarnation to crucifixion to resurrection to ascension – God did it all to deliver us together with all Creation from our present evil age.

We live in a world more concerned now than in the centuries past with the plight of oppressed and marginalized people.  So, we are empathetic (and hopefully outraged) when we learn that the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacts Black and brown and poor communities, where social distancing is often impossible, healthcare inaccessible, and pre-existing conditions the legacy of a history of oppression, leading to more infections and a significantly higher rate of death. And we hear with indignation (and deep lament) of the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, a young Black man killed in broad day light by two White men empowered and emboldened by law and history to play judge jury and executioner.  And in the midst of all these things, with heavy and grieving hearts, we can find comfort and courage in knowing that our God is a deliverer and righteous judge.  And that’s Good News!

God not only did the profoundly difficult work of freeing us from the bondage of sin in our hearts, God is also delivering us from its effects in our world – from all forms of injustice: sickness, racism, poverty, hunger and the like. And that deliverance is sure.  Praise be to God our Heavenly Parent, to Jesus our Victorious Savior, and to the Holy Spirit our Comfort and Help – for God has come to set us free!

Are we taking hold of the freedom that our loving and merciful God has done so much to make available to us? Are we participating in the redemptive work that our just and righteous God is actively doing in the world today? Are we living in the newness of life that the Spirit of God is empowering us to live? God has already made a way; may we walk therein.

Prayer: Thank You God for being my deliverer! Thank You for making victory over the sin in my life a possibility. Help me to walk in the freedom You have for me and the life Christ died to give me. Help me to be an agent of that freedom in the world around me. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 20


Lunch Break Study

Read Romans 6:16-19: Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the contrast between slavery to sin and slavery to obedience?
  2. Why does Paul make it a point to say he is speaking in human terms?
  3. How does Paul call us to become obedient/slaves of righteousness?

Notes

  1. Slavery to sin leads to death. Slavery to obedience (to God and God’s word) leads to life.
  2. He is explaining the reader’s relationship to sin and righteousness in terms of something with which they were familiar with – slavery. We formerly deliberately yielded to sin (although many of us thought we were free in our sinful lives when our behavior only led to bondage), but now we must deliberately yield to Christ (which may seem like slavery, but it is not – we do have a choice, but obedience is the only road to make that choice).
  3. He says, “Present your members” to God. In other words, we don’t need to have everything figured out or always know just what to do, but we must be open, willing, and committed to being led daily by God into righteousness (that which is right and just).

Evening Reflection

zailin-liu-IoAksOg4TX4-unsplashWhen was the last time you thanked God for deliverance from sin? Are there ways you still live enslaved to sin? How can you instead present yourself as a slave to righteousness in those areas? Pray and ask God to free you from sin, and lead you into the freedom that comes through obedience to God.

May 12, Tuesday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is written by Andrew Kim who serves as the executive pastor at Tapestry Church in Los Angeles.  Andrew, a graduate of Eternity Bible College, is currently attending Fuller Theological Seminary. 

Devotional Thought for Today

“Honest to God”

Psalm 44:22-23

 Yet for your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered. 23 Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.”

John 11:35 Jesus wept.”

annie-spratt-AOvA3C7lxD4-unsplashThroughout the biblical narrative you see people lamenting. The psalms are filled with honest poetry about their suffering, pain, and anger. Even now, it still surprises me how honest and raw they are in their writings.  (Can you imagine telling God, “Wake up, sir!”).  The authors do not filter out their deep emotions and replace it with forced Christian clichés that simply suggest that everything is well because God is good. They take the time to share and vent their deep-seated emotions to God.  This is important for us to recognize. Walter Brueggemann writes that the lament writings are indispensable to the relationship between God and humanity. There would be a genuine loss of authentic interaction. It would make us robotic in nature if humans were not allowed to share their pains and anger with their Maker, and only be left with the option to praise God. That praise would be superficial and forced. A truly genuine praise is the product of honest dialogue with God, not robotic response.

In our passage today, we see the shortest verse in the Bible. “Jesus wept.” In context, Jesus is weeping because His dear friend Lazarus has died. It’s interesting because Jesus most likely knows that He will soon raise Lazarus from the dead and be with His friend once again. But He does not bypass the process of lamenting and grieving the loss. He goes through it to get to the resurrection of his dead friend.

Many of us are filled with anger, confusion, fear, and pain now. In moments like this, we need permission to feel these emotions and share them with God. Sometimes we feel that, as good Christians, our prayers must be filled with only statements of faith and praise. But God is not afraid of our raw honest thoughts. He wants them. He wants to process with us so that He might transform them into genuine words of praise. Let us come before God and be honest with Him. Whatever fears and emotions you might have, bring them into the presence of God today!

Prayer: Father, help me as I am filled with many emotions during this pandemic. It’s a difficult thing to process. I ask that your Holy Spirit help me to honestly voice my thoughts, and for You to provide me faith in You during this difficult time. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 19


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 13:1-6: How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken. But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the emotional journey that the Psalmist goes on in this psalm of lament?
  2. How are you really feeling amid this pandemic?
  3. In what ways can you be more honest in your prayer life?

Notes

  1. The psalmist begins with an honest venting session. He expresses to God that God has been slow in providing comfort. However, that emotion is transformed into praise and trust in the Lord. It’s been my own experience that honest processing with God always leads me to a place of trust in God, through the work of God’s word and His Spirit.
  2. Personal response.
  3. The following is what Job said while he was enduring his trial: “God has turned me over to the ungodly and thrown me into the clutches of the wicked. 12 All was well with me, but he shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me. He has made me his target (Job 16:11-12).

Evening Reflection

juha-lakaniemi-PiDfQduDbIE-unsplashTake some time to come before the Lord with honesty. We are feeling many emotions and oftentimes the temptation is to numb those emotions through binge watching and social media. Take time to process and surrender them to Lord tonight.

May 11, Monday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Christine Li who serves as a deaconess at Remnant Church in Manhattan, New York.  She is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“O, Come Let Us Adore Him (a non-Christmas Version)”

Psalm 145:1-2

“I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name for ever and ever. 2 Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever.”

priscilla-du-preez--dX_d_xrVI0-unsplashDuring this shelter-in-place time, I have also had the chance to reexamine my habits. Two weeks ago, I realized my tendency was still to rush through things (though I had nowhere to be). I rushed through cooking, so my meals were still mediocre after weeks of cooking every day. I rushed to get ready in the morning and still wouldn’t use my electric toothbrush for its two-minute preset. Yes, I admit it – until two weeks ago, I didn’t think I had time to wait for my toothbrush to run its full course.

Yet another observation arose during conversation with a sister about helpful structures for prayer, including the famous ACTS model (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication). While reflecting, I recognized another thing that I’d been rushing through: Adoration.

As the world has succumbed to this pandemic, I have found my prayer time focused around supplication (asking God for things). I would pray for healing of the sick, protection over healthcare workers and others who are outside, emotional health and safety for those who have been in isolation, provision for those laid off and furloughed, etc. The needs seem both endless and urgent, and they are what I have been preoccupied with.

But skipping over Adoration means neglecting the most important component of prayer: the Lord Himself. He is the one that we come to meet. By rushing through considering who He is, we forgo delight that comes from celebrating what a friend, Father, Counselor, Savior He is. It is through adoring Him that our understanding of God becomes expanded; we will be reminded of what a wonderful, powerful, loving God reigns over this world. Everything else can easily fall into place: confession and thanksgiving naturally arise, and confidence in His provision will follow. We remember that the Father who did not spare His own Son will surely meet all our needs.

We are in a time when needs only seem to multiply each day. But I urge you today to not rush through time spent adoring God but, instead, dwell there for a longer period. The Psalm quoted is a good place to start by giving us words and ways to adore Him. More than ever, we need to know His agelessness, His faithfulness, and His goodness to be sure of who He is and to be comforted that He continues to work in this world. May adoring and worshipping God be a balm for us as we remember who He is.

Prayer: Father, I adore You! You are magnificent and good beyond my understanding. You are beautiful, gracious, and compassionate. Help me treasure who You are, not what I want You to do for me. Let my soul take its rightful place gazing upon Your beauty today and being in awe of who You are once more. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 18


Lunch Break Study

* This Bible study is written a little differently. The questions are extremely simple, so the best way to enjoy the passage is to go beyond the simple observation of the text and to re-apply those answers to your own life.

Read Psalm 150:1-6: “Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens.2 Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness.3 Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre,4 praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe,5 praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. 6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Where are we to praise the Lord (where is He)? For what are we to praise Him?
  2. What are the ways in which we are to praise Him?
  3. Who is to praise Him?

Notes

  1. God both dwells in the sanctuary (the temple, the place of worship) and also in the mighty heavens that He created. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, and His presence is in all those places. Therefore, everywhere is a place where God may be worshipped. We praise Him especially for His power and His greatness. Our God has done wonderful works, and He is also the greatest strength in the universe. Therefore, we praise Him not just for what He has accomplished through acts of power; we praise Him simply for His character.
  2. We praise Him with multiple media – through music and with our whole selves as well. Praise to God is not only in thought but expressed audibly and visibly for others to see and participate in with as well. It takes many to be able to do these concurrently. Therefore, our worship also must be manifest when we are gathered with others.
  3. Not just those who know Him, but everything that has breath (life on this earth) praises Him. All creation is meant to praise the Lord. We join in worship with all humans across the earth (who have different cultures and have seen different works), but we also join in worship with all creation and nature on the earth.

Evening Reflection

annie-spratt-gl7joOaABlI-unsplashHow was your time today? Did spending more time considering who God is and extending your time of adoration bring joy and gladness? Let’s ask Him for the grace to continue and have our souls be satisfied as we consider who He is.

May 10, Sunday

UPDATE Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Shan Gian, who serves as Fenway Site Pastor at Symphony Church in Boston, is an updated version of his blog first posted on September 28, 2014.  He is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Go Ahead, Have Some Fun”

Ecclesiastes 11:9 (ESV)

Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

michel-paz-lSWB7ZvEICU-unsplashIn our culture—at least before the calamitous arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic—people have bucket lists: a list of great, fun, and exciting things to do, like skydiving or kayaking off of a waterfall before you die or “kick the bucket.”  We also have a phenomenon called YOLO, which stands for “You Only Live Once.”  Typically, someone will say, “YOLO!” before they do something spontaneous and exciting, which they will likely regret later on, but it’s okay, “you only live once!”   

At first glance, it seems like Solomon agrees with this culture of YOLO and checking things off their bucket lists when he says, “Walk in the ways of your hearts and the sight of your eyes.”  There is some truth to this, since I think Solomon is telling people to have joy, to enjoy life, and do things that are fun and exciting.  But in contrast to the idea of YOLO, Solomon warns us that there are consequences:  “But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.”  Following your own heart can be dangerous as Jeremiah 17:9 tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things.” So we must remember that God sees and knows all things; and we will be judged by him. But this seems like a conflicting message: How can we really rejoice and have fun, if we have to fear the consequences to come?  How do we make sense of this?

We, as Christians, should be the most joyful people in the world.  Though the Christian life often has a reputation for being boring and dull, that’s not how it’s meant to be.  We should be having fun, and our lives should be filled with joy.  Yes, we know that there is a judgment to come, but because we have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus, we need not fear this eschatological event, which should certainly terrify those who don’t know Christ (Heb. 12:29).  And because of what Jesus has done for us, we should—even amid the COVID-19 pandemic that really has altered our lives—rejoice because we have this love relationship with our Father in heaven.  So, let us celebrate this Lord’s day and have some good clean fun because our Heavenly Father truly loves and cares for us!

Prayer: Father, may this Lord’s day be filled with great joy!  I pray that as I remember the love of Jesus shown to me on the cross, that I will experience joy of being forgiven and redeemed, not fearing the judgment to come.  Help me today to celebrate and have fun in Your name.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 17

May 9, Saturday

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), is an updated version of his blog first posted on February 12, 2013.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“A Sacrifice that Costs Nothing Is Not Fit for the King”

2 Sam. 24:24 (ESV)

But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.*

avery-klein-LJNfVzI7AVA-unsplash*Following God’s judgment that broke out against Israel, King David was looking to purchase a plot of land to build an altar to the Lord—as he was commanded by God—but when Araunah offered the king his land for free, David insisted on paying for it.  Later, it was on this site the temple of Solomon was built.

Once, as I was perusing through a commentary on several temples that had been built in Jerusalem over the course of several hundred years, I was stunned to see that the author, after citing Solomon’s and Herod’s temples, failed to mention Zerubbabel’s temple.  He did, however, mention another temple known as Ezekiel’s temple, but this temple, unlike Zerubbabel’s temple, has never been built!” (Ez. 40-47). Granted it that Zerubbabel’s temple wasn’t much to look at when compared to Solomon’s temple, but it was regarding Zerubbabel’s temple that God said, “The glory of this present house (Zerubbabel’s) will be greater than the glory of the former house” (Solomon’s—Hag. 2:9a).

Why?  It’s because while “man looks at the outward appearance, . . . the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).  In short, God was moved by the hearts of those who gave up a comfortable life in Persia to return to Jerusalem—still lying in ruins—for the sole purpose of rebuilding the temple that was destroyed earlier.  Such a dedicated heart is what God is still looking for today.

What about the temple of Solomon?  The fact is that over 80 percent of those who worked on the first temple were Canaanites, otherwise known as Solomon’s “slave labor force” (2 Chr. 2:17-8, 8:7-8), who obviously didn’t labor out of love for God.  The gold used to build this temple—100,000 talents (1 Chr. 22:14), equivalent to about $181 billion today—had been accumulated by David; not a penny came out of the pockets of the Canaanite laborers.  But the gold used to build Zerubbabel’s temple—about $26 million worth (Ez. 2:69)—was donated by the returnees from Persia themselves.  In short, these men honored God with their very best.  Be that as it may, Zerubbabel’s temple continues to get no respect—seen as less important than a temple that has never been built (that of Ezekiel).

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what men think; it’s what God thinks that matters.  So, let’s embody a faith that refuses to render services to “the Lord [our] God that cost [us] nothing”—that wouldn’t be fit for our King—all the more so as many of us will live with far less in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, let me never take You for granted; may I never approach You casually.  May I always set You before me. May I never offer You a sacrifice that costs me nothing, not because my salvation depends on it but because You are God and I am not. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 15-16

May 8, Friday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Christine Li, who serves as a deaconess at Remnant Church in Manhattan, New York.  She is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Always Loved”

Matthew 3:16-17

As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.

siyan-ren-H2f9mcHVl2E-unsplashWhen I learned that shelter-in-place would go into effect, one of the first things I did was make a to-do list. I wrote down chores and hobbies that I “didn’t have time” for before. It turns out that having time was not the problem. Six weeks later, the bulk of what I’d hoped to achieve remains untouched. Instead, I have slept a record amount and watched more TV in several weeks than I did in the last several years. Subsequently, one of my most difficult challenges became processing the deep sense of guilt and shame I’d acquired for wasting this time.

In other seasons, I pride myself on being productive and efficient. As time passed and I felt hopelessly behind with all the things I’d wanted to achieve, I began condemning myself: Staying indoors was a golden opportunity, but I had squandered the gift. Friends challenged whether my own standards of productivity had enslaved me to a vision incompatible with the freedom God gives. I was reminded of this story from Jesus’s life explained through Peter Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. He writes, “We are given a snapshot of Jesus’ understanding of who He is. Heaven opens. The Spirit descends like a dove. And Jesus’ Father speaks audibly: ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased’ (Matt. 3:17). In other words: ‘You are lovable. You are good. It is so good that you exist.’ Jesus has yet to perform miracles or die on the cross for the sins of humanity. Nonetheless, He receives an experiential affirmation that He is deeply loved by His Heavenly Father for who He is.”

Could it be that we are loved even before we do a single thing? Many of us find His acceptance and unconditional love too good to be true; as a result, seasons like these burden us with guilt and shame that we aren’t better. For those who can relate to the disappointment of a seemingly fallow season, I invite you to come back to the Father. He loves you. He loves you beyond what you can do for Him. He will free you from the chains of productivity and help you believe in the easy yoke of His love once again.

God is neither surprised nor derailed by what we have (and haven’t) made of this time, so I urge you not to let it drive a wedge between you and the Father. God does not need our productivity to accomplish His work in the world, but He does want our hearts and our trust in His promises. So today, let’s come to Him, surrender the fruits of this time, and taste the freedom that comes from His unfailing love for His children.

Prayer: Father, I am thankful that I belong to You. You are a good, endlessly good, Father. I confess that I still try to earn Your affection and praise by being useful. Teach me to trust in Your amazing and unconditional love once more. I want to be free in Your love! Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 14


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 15:18-241‘I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the younger son’s plan to come back to his father? What does this tell us about his understanding of his father?
  2. What is the father’s response like to his son? What does this tell us about God?
  3. Reflect on this passage and put yourself in the younger son’s shoes. If this was your experience, how would you accept the father’s love? In the context of yourself and God, how readily do you accept His love, forgiveness, and restoration?

Notes

  1. The younger son has several methods to try and win back his father. He plans to come back to his father humbled and address all his misdeeds and regrettable actions. He also plans to make himself useful and become a hired servant to earn his keep. The son’s impression of the father is that the father will find it difficult to forgive him, and that perhaps the father’s favor can be curried with usefulness.
  2. The father’s response to the son is such: he has been yearning for the son all this while as he seems him a long way off (v.20); he is filled with compassion (v.20); he hurriedly goes to restore his son with a public display of affection (v.20). Furthermore, the father not only welcomes him back home but immediately restores him to a place of honor and belonging in his household once more. This is an unexpected turn for us, as the father has forgiven all the transgressions quickly, and the father did not hesitate to embrace his wayward son. God’s love is like this – always beckoning towards us, always eager to bring us home, always ready to restore.
  3. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

martin-adams-uZZw2vh8eqY-unsplashTake some time to think about today’s topic. How do you feel about accepting God’s love? Are you more freed from guilt and shame? Let’s ask Him to continue to reassure us of His love and make it more of our reality for the days to come.