May 15, Sunday

Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, first posted on October 4, 2015, is provided by Joanna Tzen.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Don’t Become a Very Hairy Sheep”

John 10:3 

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

 Earlier this month, a sheep named Chris made international headlines. He had wandered from his flock and had been living in the Australian outback for five to six years on his own. When they found him, his fleece had grown to five times its normal size. As a result, he could barely see or walk; the heavy wool made it impossible for him to right himself if he had fallen over. He had to be sedated to be sheared because he had not been near humans for so long. The fleece alone weighed a record-setting 89 pounds, and it took 45 minutes to shear him—a process that usually only takes two minutes. 

Today’s passage tells us that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and that we are His sheep. The way we know Jesus is by His voice. Do we know Jesus by His voice today or are our lives cluttered with many voices? Our hearts and minds can be filled with the world’s opinions—what our parents think of us, and what our peers think of us. We can only know by learning the voice through which Jesus speaks—meaning, knowing His Word through reading of Scripture. It also means slowing down to listen to Jesus in prayer, discerning what are the voices in our lives; that is, to know which one is Jesus and which is not. Are we quick to run to the truth of Jesus, and do we know it because we have spent time in His Word? Or are we sometimes led astray by words of the world?

Jesus is calling you to spend time with Him today and learn His voice. He knows your name, and He longs to lead you into the green pasture (Ps. 23). 

Prayer: Jesus, forgive me when I disregard Your voice and am tempted to follow the world’s ways. Help me to not only hear Your voice but abide by it. I know you are the Good Shepherd; remind me of your faithfulness. I desire to follow You into the green pasture and life everlasting. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 38

May 14, Saturday

REPOST Today’s AMI Devotional Quiet Time, provided by Christine Li, was first posted on September 5, 2015.  Christine, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, serves as a deaconess at Remnant Church in Manhattan, New York.  

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“At My Convenience, Of Course”

Isaiah 29:13

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.”

Growing up, I watched my parents call overseas family members every day. So when I moved away, I picked up a habit of calling home twice a day; however, I can attest that the frequency with which I call my parents has not always been indicative of an extraordinary relationship with them. 

Throughout the years, my parents will point out various aspects of our conversations that are lacking– I rush or speak curtly because my mind is elsewhere; I schedule convenient times of my day but never think that these could be inconvenient times for my parents. Yes, I call dutifully, but in prioritizing the routine, I often miss out on the purpose– to spend time, connect, and listen so we can grow in our love for each other. 

As I continually reassess how to communicate better with my parents, I am reminded of similar pitfalls in our relationships with God. He, too, saw dutiful people whose hearts were distant; they went through the motions with no enthusiasm to meet with Him. What a tragic picture we would not want mirrored in any of our relationships – polite and structured but lacking warmth and openness.

However, in our modern-day attempts to be faithful, we often schedule God for only certain days of the week or times of the day. We approach Him to quickly pay our respects but do not set out significant time and effort to grow our relationship with Him. Others can be deceived by our devoted appearance, but our hearts and affections are not fully engaged, and our love for Him is dry.

If you feel that your routines have trapped you in a stale, uninspired relationship with God, let’s reassess how to seek Him in a fresh way –have your quiet times in a different place, read through the Word with a friend, or approach Him during a different time of day (after your meals instead of before?). Let’s break out of the habit of reducing our relationship with God into rituals. No matter what adjustments have to be made, we can trust that He is always attentive and will surely meet us when we seek Him with all our heart.

Prayer: Father, I confess that I can fall into a mindless routine of honoring You while withholding my heart. Forgive me for attempting to substitute this costly, precious relationship through Christ with my mindless routines. Fill my heart with joy and delight in You; help me to hold onto that love and walk in step with You day by day. Amen


Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 36-37

May 13, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 23, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

Note: Matthew’s wedding banquet parable elaborates on what happens after the original invitees refuse to come for similar reasons why they didn’t come to the great banquet in Luke: “They paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business” (Matt. 22:5).  

“The Proper Attire for Admission”

Matt. 22:8-13

“Then [the king] said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. [9] Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ [10] And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. [11] But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. [12] And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’  And he was speechless. [13] Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness.  In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’”

Restaurants can ask people who don’t comply with their dress codes to leave after they have somehow snuck in.  Likewise, anyone who enters a ticketed event with a counterfeit one can be removed if found out later.  This parable shows that the same applies to an event held just before the ushering in of eternity: the wedding of the Lamb where Christ and his bride, referring to the church (believers), are officially unified.  And the dress code for the participants? “Fine linen, bright and clean, was given [to his bride] her to wear” (Rev. 19:7-8).  John explains that “fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.”  

Before concluding that “righteous acts” imply a work-based salvation, note what Jesus said to the legalistic Jews who asked, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent” (Jn. 6:28-9).  So, our work begins with believing in Jesus and continues with, “Work out your salvation” (Phil. 2:12).  Jesus said, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good” (Matt. 12:33), meaning the true believers will produce righteous acts.  It is not “either/or” (“you have faith; I have deeds” [James 2:18]), but “both/and” (“faith and actions . . . working together” [2:22]).

Also, this parable isn’t implying that some unbelievers will be mistakenly allowed into the wedding of the Lamb only to be removed later.  What it does highlight is that there are some resemblances between the true gospel and the false, where in some cases, their differences won’t be clearly revealed until the end.  In the parable of the weeds, when the servants noticed that the wheat and the weeds were growing together, they asked the master, “Do you want us to . . . pull them up?” But the master responded, “No. . . because while you are pulling the weed, you may root up the wheat with them” (Matt. 13:29).

The true gospel, nicely summarized by Martin Luther, is this: “We are saved by faith (in Christ) alone, but the faith that saves is never alone”—meaning that faith is always evidenced by good works.   That is the proper attire for admission to heaven.  Any teaching that doesn’t uphold this is false.  So today, do an act of kindness because of Christ who is changing us.

Prayer: O God, I uphold your word that is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). “I do not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4); “Your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17).   I will daily “buy the truth” (Prov. 23:23) to get wisdom, discipline and understanding.  Amen.   

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 35


Lunch Break Study

Read 2 Cor. 11:4 (ESV): “For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.”

Gal. 1:6-7 (ESV): “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— [7] not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

1 Tim. 4:16 (KJV): “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee. (Timothy was the pastor of church in Ephesus.)

Question to Consider

1. What do these phrases “another Jesus,” “a different spirit” and “a distorted gospel” imply?

2. What is implied by Paul giving the same warnings to the three churches (Corinthians, Galatians and Ephesians)?   What does he command that we do?

3. What are some questions you have about salvation?  Do you any problems accepting some aspect of salvation?   Why?  Have you resolved it?

Notes

1. In short, “another Jesus,” “a different spirit,” and “a distorted gospel” are not efficacious to save.   It comes down to what kind of doctrines are attached next to the word “Jesus,” “Spirit,” and “gospel.”  The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in a created Jesus who is inferior to Jehovah God and the Holy Spirit as a force instead of a person: these distortions are what constitute a different gospel.  

2. This strongly suggests that the distortion of key doctrines is not uncommon; actually, it is rampant today, even in churches.  Therefore, we must know and understand important doctrines and guard them.

3. A Methodist student in my class said that belief in the eternal security (“once you’re saved, you’re always saved”) is like the 007 movie, “The License to Kill,” that is, they promote a license to sin. I explained to him that there are two sides to this view:  the irresponsible and unbiblical version of this, which, in effect, promotes licentiousness; but the other view is that if one is truly saved, the result will be bearing of fruits.  


Evening Reflection

As you are about to turn in, reflect on a great doctrine of the Bible and present a prayer based on it.   For instance, “In light of the Trinity, O God, empower and motivate me to seek unity in my relationships.”   

May 12, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI Devotional QT—first posted on April 20, 2014—is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI, who in the past has served as a staff at several AMI churches.  He is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Cairn University (MA).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Rather Be Embarrassed Now Than Later”

1 Sam. 20:34

Jonathan got up from the table in fierce anger; on that second day of the feast he did not eat, because he was grieved at his father’s shameful treatment of David.

For both the good and bad, this generation of young people is a lot different from my generation.  A positive example is that kids today don’t seem to be as easily embarrassed by their parents as we were.  In fact, kids today want or expect their parents to chauffeur them to and from school; back in my day, I would have rather died than to be caught getting a ride to school from my mom.  Now as a somewhat needy and smothering dad, I am hoping that this trend will continue, so that I can walk my kids, hand-in-hand, all the way to their first class when they are seniors in high school. 

So when I was a kid, my mom did a ton of things that embarrassed me.  We were poor immigrants, and my mom did not know that “American” children didn’t wear the same outfit every day.  We never spent money on brown paper lunch bags, so my lunch was either in a large paper shopping bag or a plastic grocery bag—consisting of the “wrong” kinds of food.  And of course, we didn’t spend money on haircuts, so thanks to mom, my face was an embarrassment.  (Growing up in 80’s was rough if you were not normal, because outward appearances were so important.)

As I get older, I laugh at those embarrassing things and realize that in the grand scheme of life, I can get over them.  Looking back, I had a great mom, who worked hard for me, loved me, and prayed earnestly for me; in other words, I had a respectable mom.  Now, let’s just imagine that I had a mother who dressed me like Miami Vice, put the best sandwiches in the right sized bags, and paid for the sweetest feathered haircut.  But if she was lazy, selfish, and disinterested, would I be looking back so fondly of her and have respect for her?

You have to feel for Jonathan, because I see this man who was trying to do right by himself, for his friends, and his God; but he had a father who constantly did things to bring shame upon himself and his family.  Jonathan was the prince, so Saul could have given him whatever he wanted, except for things that cannot be purchased—like respectability.  In the end, what is true for the king is true for the street sweeper: respectability (or shame) is won by character and right actions.  Let me ask you this question: Do your children, spouse, or friends see in you a person who is respectable, honest, consistent, etc.?  Or do you just have really cool stuff and a lot of money to buy them things?  When my children get older, I don’t think I’ll mind if they say, “My dad used to embarrass me in front of my friends with his corny jokes and poor fashion sense.”  On the other hand, it would break my heart if they say, “My dad was an embarrassment because he always talked about Christ, but never followed him.”  This day, live a faith that your children (even if you don’t have kids) can respect.  Know that if you have not been living a life of integrity, it is never too late to start.

Prayer: Lord, please help me to be a person whom my children, my parents, my spouse, my friends can be proud.  Help me to make good choices and have blameless actions; simply put, let me live a life worthy of the calling that I have received.  

Bible Reading for Today:  Genesis 34


Lunch Break Study

Read James 1:22-25: Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do. (NIV)

Questions to Consider

  1. Why do you think Paul equates self-deceit with “merely listening to the word”?
  2. What is the importance of obeying the word?
  3. Are you a doer of the word or merely a listener?

Notes

  1. Especially for those of us who are in the church (a lot), there is a tendency to think that listening to messages and going to many meetings makes us obedient and pleasing to God.  However, there is no substitute for obedience: To obey is better than sacrificing of time or resources.  
  2. Obedience leads to God’s blessing; disobedience amounts to foolishness.  Although God’s grace is upon all who believe, it is also fair to say that God blesses obedience and punishes disobedience.  
  3. Please be truthful with yourself; do not deceive yourself.  

Evening Reflection

Did you live a life of integrity today?  Did you do your best to obey God in matters of thought and action?  Do you generally strive to obey Christ because He has purchased your life with His blood?  

May 11, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI Devotional QT, provided by Cami King, now a friend of AMI, was first posted on August 12, 2015.  Cami served faithfully as a staff at several AMI churches in the past.  

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Sometimes Life Doesn’t Go Our Way”

2 Kings 6:15-17

 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

When I was a little girl, I remember reading the story of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It follows a little boy, Alexander, through what he concludes is the worst day imaginable. From having a drawer fall on his foot, to getting gum lodged in his hair, to being forced to eat lima beans, all before being scalded by his bathwater – this kid is having a pretty rough time. Things are so bad that he resolves to move to Australia. It’s a cute little story that teaches kiddos that sometimes life doesn’t go our way, but tomorrow is always a new day. 

Yet as we get older, our terrible, horrible days are a lot less cute than Alexander’s. And they last a lot longer – spanning months or years or even whole seasons of life when things just don’t go our way. If you’re like me, it doesn’t take long to recall a time when you felt absolutely and unequivocally outnumbered by life’s circumstances—a time when you just knew you were beat, when one thing after another after another fell apart. And even for the resilient among us, there comes a point when we are at our wits end and may even find ourselves in despair. 

In our passage for today, Elisha and his servant find themselves surrounded by enemy forces. From what the servant could see – they were finished and the battle was over before it began because they were so greatly outnumbered. But Elisha’s vision was a little clearer and He could see the true state of things. I can rarely read this text without welling up with tears because no matter how difficult life gets, we can always rest assured that the Lord is our protection, surrounding us with powerful spiritual forces that work for our good and for His glory. And when we are overwhelmed and overcome we need only to remind ourselves who our God is and rest in His promise to fight on our behalf. Those who fight with us are always greater than anything and anyone against us. When we find ourselves in despair, we can recall the words that Moses spoke to the Israelites in Exodus 14:14 – The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.  

Prayer: Almighty God, open my eyes to see Your strong arm of protection around me. In the midst of my most difficult times, help me to remember that You encamp Your forces about me and work all things for my good and for Your glory. Help me to stand firm and trust in You. Give me the vision to see my circumstances the way that You do.  

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 33


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 6:10-18: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 

Questions to Consider

  1. Why is it important that we be strong in the Lord and put on the full armor of God? How does this perspective change the way you view any difficulties you’re currently facing?
  2. After putting on the full armor, what are we called to do? Why is this important? 
  3. Which piece of the armor strikes you most as an area that you may need to give more attention? What are some practical ways you can take up the armor of God in this area? 

Notes

  1. We are called to be strong in the Lord and put on the full armor of God because our war is not against flesh and blood (but against rulers and powers in the spirit realm). If we limit our view of the things going on around us to what we can see, we will rely on limited resources as opposed to God’s infinite power.
  2. We are called to stand firm. That’s it – just stand. This is important because we do not ultimately have to overcome difficulties on our own. We don’t even have to figure out how to use God’s power within us to overcome. We only have to stand firm in the Lord, continuing to walk in faithful obedience to Him, and He will do the rest. 
  3. For some of us it is the truth that we are lacking or a grasp of the Gospel, in which case spending more time in the Bible will help us to arm ourselves. For others we may need to spend more time in prayer and take a firmer hold of the Holy Spirit’s power at work in us. Whatever it is for you, spend some time asking God to strengthen you in those areas. 

Evening Reflection

Saint Patrick is credited for the following:

“I rise today with the power of God to pilot me, God’s strength to sustain me, God’s wisdom to guide me, God’s eye to look ahead for me, God’s ear to hear me, God’s word to speak for me, God’s hand to protect me, God’s way before me, God’s shield to defend me, God’s host to deliver me from snares of devils, from evil temptations, from nature’s failings, from all who wish to harm me, far or near, alone and in a crowd.”

Spend some time reflecting on the quotation above. Allow the Holy Spirit to bring His peace as you choose to put your trust in God’s willingness to protect you and see you through even the fiercest of storms. 

May 10, Tuesday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 27, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“More Than One Way to Make Your Organization to Grow”

Matt. 13:31-3 (ESV)

“He put another parable before them, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. [32] It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’ [33] He told them another parable. ‘The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.’”

A famous author on leadership (a former pastor) was impressed by how Enron got so huge, very fast (“A decade later . . . the revenues were $101 billion . . . its assets . . .  $53 billion”).  No one knew then that the heads of this energy company hid, using deceptive accounting methods, enormous debts from bad deals.  The oversight made by this author is the kind that some pastors and businessmen make: being mesmerized by anything that grows very fast, and then copying what appear to be impressive methods. 

God’s kingdom, however, doesn’t grow like that.  Seed and leaven have this in common: its growth is gradual, but once grown, it affects the whole in influence (“all leavened”) and size (“larger than all”).  True kingdom growth isn’t fuelled by upgrades or clever ads; instead, it’s predicated upon two things working in unison: God’s word and sacrifices.   

Certainly, for God’s kingdom to be initiated, it’s our responsibility to faithfully sow the word; once that is done, “the word of God that is sharper than any double-edge sword” (Heb. 4:12) can grow it all by itself.  “This is what the kingdom of God is like,” said Jesus, “A man scatters seed on the ground.  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how” (Mk. 4:27-8).  The soil is fertilized by sacrifices of true believers who “shar[e] in [Christ’s] suffering, becoming him like him in his death” (Phil. 3:19) by dying to their agendas and carrying out God’s plan.  

A while back, I met a Vietnamese pastor who suffered for 3 years in prison for his faith.  But his church, instead of dwindling during his absence, grew; and some 30 years later, it had 423,213 members in 2,388 churches.  In China, after the communists drove out all western missionaries following the Cultural Revolution in 1949, many in the West worried that the church would die out under communist persecution; instead, it flourished throughout China: from 840,000 to 100 million believers by 2007.  

So, whether it be pursuing career, relationship or ministry goal, stay with God’s word and do the right thing over short-cuts and expediency, even if it results in a loss.  That honors God.

Prayer: O God, I exalt and praise You this morning for your kingdom. I am heartened by the fact that “the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”  Lord, remind and empower me to live the life of kingdom through patient endurance.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 32


Lunch Break Study

Read Lk. 16:15 (NIV): “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.”

Lk. 18:15-7 (ESV): “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. [16] But Jesus called them to him, saying, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. [17] Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’”

Lk. 21:1-4 (ESV): ”Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, [2] and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. [3] And he said, “Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. [4] For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”

Question to Consider

1. What are some key differences between those things valued in the world and what is valued in God’s kingdom?

2. Why are they different?  What is the root difference between the two?

3. How we should we live when “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight”?

Notes

1. The children were not welcomed because the disciples didn’t see how they could help their cause. That’s how the world sees people: they look for strong, rich and capable people who can extend “my” cause.   But Christ’s kingdom takes the weak and the lowly, and transforms them to be useful for God’s work (1 Cor. 1:27-29).  While the amount of the offering isn’t unimportant, the heart behind it weighs more with the Lord. 

2. The world is about exalting great men defined by power, wealth and beauty; those who do not have these things are not welcomed.  In contrast, God’s kingdom is about accepting the weak and the powerless (Rom. 14:1) in Christ, thereby demonstrating God’s infinitive love and grace.  Thus, it gives new hope to the hopeless.

3. We should constantly examine ourselves whether what we do (even in ministry) is to build our own little kingdom or God’s kingdom.  If it is really for God, then we have to use His methods!


Evening Reflection

Did you experience kingdoms in conflict today?  What would that mean to you?  Doing it my way versus doing it Christ way?  Reacting according to my natural disposition or under the control of the Spirit?  Reflect on one or two events that didn’t go so well and ask God to help you do better tomorrow.  

May 9, Monday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Doug Tritton, was first posted on November 12, 2015.  A graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), Doug is the UC site pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia. 

Devotional Thought for the Day

“A Very Bad Therapy” 

Nehemiah 9:1-5

On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God. Standing on the stairs of the Levites were Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani. They cried out with loud voices to the Lord their God. And the Levites—Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah—said: “Stand up and praise the Lord your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting.”

Have you ever dealt with stress by going on some form of “therapy”? I do not mean clinical therapy; I am referring to things like retail therapy, chocolate therapy, ice cream therapy, media therapy, or any other ______ therapy (insert your own guilty pleasure). One of my most recent binges was history podcasts (yeah, yeah, nerdy, right?)

These sorts of binges can potentially make us feel good for a short burst of time, but will it solve our problems? Will they provide long term relief? Probably not. The Israelites in this passage, having finally completed the reconstruction of Jerusalem’s walls, went on a different type of binge. They took part in Bible, confession, and worship therapy; they gave a quarter of the day to each of those activities. Can you think of anything better to binge on? 

When going through a tough time, or maybe dealing with a big transition in your life, just as the Israelites did, perhaps the best thing you can do is binge on the Bible, binge on prayer, binge on worship. These things will certainly satisfy in much greater ways than ice cream, shopping, or anything else. These things will nourish our souls and draw us closer to our loving Father. 

Today, rather than other forms of fake therapy, let’s have some Bible, confession, and worship therapy. Let’s spend focused time in Scripture, focused time humbling ourselves before God, and focused time praising Him. There is no better use of our time than that.

Prayer: Lord, help us this day to satisfy our souls with You and Your Word. Let us delight in fellowship with You over other things. Help us to devote time in communion with You today. We need more of You in our lives; come and fill us, Lord. 

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 31


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 John 2:15-17: Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Questions to Consider

  1. What do we miss out on when we love the world?
  2. What will happen to the world and the desires of the world?
  3. In what ways are you valuing the things of the world over the things of God?

Notes

  1. The passage tells us that if we love the world, love for the Father is not in us. This means we miss out on the great joy that comes from having a loving relationship with our Heavenly Father. There is nothing this world offers that comes close to that!
  2. This world and the things of it will pass away. This is why we should seek to love God rather than the world, because God is eternal while the world is fading away. Isn’t it better to love Someone that lasts rather than something that will soon disappear?
  3. Take some time to think about how you may be valuing your “binge” activities over time in scripture, confession, and worship.

Evening Reflection

Tonight, before going to sleep, spend some time in confession, just as the Israelites did. Confess to God the ways in which you have found comfort in things apart from God. Ask Him to comfort your soul tonight.

May 8, Sunday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Charles Choe who leads Tapestry Church in Los Angeles, was first posted on July 19, 2015.  Charles is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Depression”

1 Kings 18:41-46

So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees.

Depression is the common cold of our emotions. It can strike us at any time, even the most cheerful amongst us. It would be nice to think that as Christians, we don’t have dark days and discouragement doesn’t really get to us, but looking through the Bible’s greatest heroes, we find that time and again, despair can visit any one of us—at any time. 

The classic study of a depressed person in the Bible is the prophet Elijah, the champion of Mt. Carmel. Of the many things we can say about depression, especially with the benefit of modern psychology, what is of interest for our purposes is the timing of Elijah’s depression. The onset of his depression is not during the famine or in the drought, but immediately after he defeats the false prophets of Baal, and God sends rain for the first time in three years. 

Here is what we can learn from Elijah’s bout with depression: No one can run full throttle all the time. We all need to slow down to an idle occasionally. Keeping healthy in general –getting enough of the right kind of food, enough sleep, and sufficient exercise—may not guarantees us against depression, but it may help to prevent it and will certainly keep the body in a better state to deal with it. 

The key is maintaining the pace God has built into His creation. Keep a rhythm between work and rest. If you are depressed, first get a good physical check-up to see whether there is anything physically or chemically wrong with you. If everything is all right physically, take some time off to let your body and soul catch up with one another. 

And given that today is Sunday, you can make an immediate application. Go to church and worship with your community; rest in the Lord among friends. In fact, this should be a lifestyle: Sunday worship must be a priority. Minimize being away on the weekends, either for work or for vacations. If you are to rejuvenate not just body but spirit as well, you need make worship an essential part of your weekly schedule. This is true rest from your labor where your physical, emotional and spiritual needs are met.  

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the joy of salvation. There are moments when I don’t always understand my own emotions, but I thank You that You know me perfectly. In my moments of loneliness and depression, may I sense the nearness of Your presence. Thank You for the community of faith You have given me. Help me to not take them for granted. May I find refreshment and encouragement through my friends at church. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:Genesis 30

May 7, Saturday

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought was first posted on August 23, 2013.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The True Discipleship”

Luke 6:37-49

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”  39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. 43 “For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, 44 for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. 45 The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. 46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? 47 Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: 48 he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.[a] 49 But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

I would like to share two thoughts regarding this passage.

First, those who want no correction or accountability in their lives misapply too often verse 37.   The real issue here is “with what measure/standard are we discerning/judging others” (v. 38)?  Meaning what?  The emphasis in this command is “forgiveness,” not “tolerance.”  The difference between the two is this: forgiveness is acknowledging that what was done is sinful and wrong, while tolerance is keeping one’s silence even though what was done could be wrong—all for the sake of maintaining superficial peace.  This morning, we want to pray that our spiritual eyes would be opened, judging things in the way Jesus would.  After all, the goal in life is to be like Jesus, is it not?

Second, Jesus is not advocating minding our own business; instead, it is about being trained, discipled (v. 40).  The goal of discipleship is to be like Christ by being discipled by those who have been walking in that path earlier and longer than you have.  If I were to apply this passage to discipleship without having to distort the very fundamental teachings of Christ, I would raise the following three questions.  First, with the kingdom standard/measurement what do I need to give to those whom I seek to disciple? (vv. 37-38)?  Second, note that the parable of verses 39-40 points to the fact that we often try to help others to grow without focusing on our own growth at the same time.  In view of that, what areas in my life has God constantly reminded me to change as I am involved in discipling others (vv. 41-42)?  Third, the heart of discipleship training is about dealing with the heart (vv. 43-45).  So then, what is deeply rooted in other people’s hearts and mine as well? 

Prayer: Dear God, help me to change even as I am involved in helping others to change through Your eternal word and the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 28-29

May 6, Friday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 16, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Those Who Discontinue Their Faith Journey”

Mk. 4:16-7 (NIV)

“Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. [17] But since they have no root, they last only a short time.  When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away.”

I got to know “Bernie” when we were part of a short-term mission trip, but around the time his mother was diagnosed with cancer, he stopped coming to church.  He never returned, at least while I was there for another 5-6 years.  Tran, a Vietnamese student in the Bible institute I was teaching, was absent on my fourth visit to Vietnam, so when I asked around, he apparently left the church because of trouble (misunderstanding) with the pastor.  (Not sure whatever happened to him.)

These examples point to a “shallow faith” (i.e., seed sown on rocky places) in which the initial joy of hearing God’s word (the gospel) is short-lived because of trouble or persecution.  Of course, I can sugarcoat their reasons for not continuing with their faith, but without judging them at a personal level, that—shallow faith—is the biblical diagnosis of those who discontinue their faith journey. 

Typically, having no root refers to Christians who lack knowledge of God’s word, resulting in their faith being destroyed (Hos. 4:6).   This doesn’t necessarily mean having no biblical knowledge; rather, whatever knowledge they had was incorrect, therefore, their faith was utterly helpless to withstand trouble or persecution.  It is as if they were caught by surprise because they didn’t know or no one taught them that “in this world you will have trouble” (Jn. 16:33); or even if you are a Christian, “It has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” (Phil. 1:29).  

At the root of our faith, what’s crucial is not so much the extent of biblical knowledge but whether we know correctly the crux of God’s will revealed in the Scripture.  For instance, some know by heart numerous verses that allegedly back the health and wealth gospel.  One prosperity teacher declared, “If I walk justly and according to the Word of God, I am completely convinced that I can be free of sickness and pain.”   Another declared, “God’s top priority is to shower blessings on Christians in this lifetime.” But when a loved one gets really sick, or you are barely making ends meet despite giving generously, the very teaching that appeared so promising becomes a stumbling block; you may fall as a result.     

So, know your Bible correctly; don’t have false assumptions about the Christian faith that will greatly disappoint you one day; heed the “whole will of God” (Acts 20:27).  

Prayer: Keep me safe, O God, as You ground me in your Word; may I be like a tree planted by streams of water through the Word.  Lord, grant me wisdom so that every time I read your Scripture, my mind would be illuminated by the eternal truth of Your Word, for your Word is truth.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 27


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Tim. 3:12 (NIV): “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

Jn. 15:18 (NIV): “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.”

1 Jn. 2:15 (NIV): “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.”

Question to Consider

1. What should Christians expect especially when they are sincere about upholding their faith through their confession and deeds?

2. Why are Christians destined for trouble and hatred from the world? 

3. No one should seek trouble or persecution but if you really uphold your faith at work or school, what kind of trouble or persecution can you reasonably expect? 

Notes

1. The fact is, many Christian beliefs (e.g., exclusivity of Christ for salvation, intelligent design) and practices (e.g., waiting until the wedding day for sexual relations) are seen as outside of mainstream.  So when we express these and other views in a public setting, you are bound to be criticized. 

2. In short, to love God is not to love the world; since Jesus was hated by the world, his followers should not be surprised if the world does not love them either.

3. We should be prudent and not overly aggressive in disagreeing with those who espouse ant-Christian views, but it behooves us to “always be ready to given an answer to everyone who asks [us] to give the reason for the hope [we] have” (1 Pet. 3:15). 


Evening Reflection

Looking back, did you encounter any trouble or persecution because of your Christian belief?  How did you fare?  What does that tell you about your readiness?  Pray about how you can be better prepared.