January 11, Sunday

Editor’s Note: The AMI Quiet Times for January and February are provided by P. Ryun Chang, Teaching and Resource Pastor of AMI.

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning 

Luke 15:4, 8, 28 (NIV): “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it. . . . 

[8] Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? . . . .

[28] “The older brother became angry and refused to go in.  So his father went out and pleaded with him.”

11aThe Christian faith in the wrong hands can turn into a weapon to condemn others, thereby one can feel superior about oneself.  Recall the prayer of the Pharisee who said, “I thank God that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers” (Lk. 18:10).  But in Luke 15, Jesus presents the parable of lost sheep, coin and son to show that “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Lk. 19:10).  So, we see that the shepherd and the woman immediately set out to find what was lost; both say, “Rejoice with me” (Lk. 15:6, 9) upon finding it.  However, no one is looking for the younger son.  Theologian Edmund Clowney, when asked if culturally the father would’ve gone out looking for the son, responded, “The older brother would have done that”; but the older brother in the parable stays put.

11bAt the very least, the Pharisees, whom the older son represents, were known to “travel over land and sea to win a single convert.” Their problem was the message which made their convert “twice as much a child of hell as [they] are” (Matt. 23:15).  But the older son is acting worse than the Pharisees: first, he thinks worst of his brother, assuming his association with prostitutes (something Jesus never said); second, he doesn’t care whether his brother is alive or dead.  While the older son has always been near his father physically, his heart is as far from the father’s as east is from the west; while the father rejoices, the older son growls at the return of his brother.

Where the older son in the parable fails, another steps in: “His Son (Rom. 8:29 NASB), the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (NIV).   There have been discussions over whom the father in the parable represents.   While the traditional answer is God the Father, some note that since the father is the one who suffers (i.e., shame and humiliation), he represents Jesus who suffered in order to redeem.  But unlike the elder brother in the parable who doesn’t care, the elder brother in God’s family does: he runs after the younger brother to keep him from being condemned by the villagers (Qetsatsah ceremony—see Jan. 8); he goes out to the older son who had been lost as well, to save him.

Those who have been believers for a while tend to become disgusted by sinners around them.  It is always easier to judge than reach out to them.  “On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Mk. 2:17 NIV).

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 13

January 10, Saturday

Editor’s Note: The AMI Quiet Times for January and February are provided by P. Ryun Chang, Teaching and Resource Pastor of AMI.

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning 

Luke 15:25-30 (NIV): “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field.  When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. [26] So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. [27] ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ [28] The older brother became angry and refused to go in.  So his father went out and pleaded with him. [29] But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. [30] But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’”

Is. 28:10 (NIV): “For it is: Do this, do that, a rule for this, a rule for that; a little here, a little there.”

10aDuring my earlier days as a Christian, I made up some good rules for myself so that I could please God.  Each day in my monthly calendar, I recorded how long I prayed (timed to seconds), how many chapters of the Bible I read, etc.  I felt great about myself for a while (partly because I was out-performing others), but once I couldn’t keep it up (lots of zeroes), I felt like God was displeased and even angry with me; as a result, I was joyless and felt bound.

10bThe Pharisees, Israel’s religious leaders, to whom this parable was told (15:2), knew that the “older son,” who couldn’t stand his younger brother, represented them.   They, too, couldn’t stand the sight of those whom they dubbed as “sinners,” consisting of tax collectors, who corroborated with the hated Romans, and prostitutes.   Why?  Because these spiritual lowlifes weren’t as holy and righteous as they who kept God’s laws.   Thus, they prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evil doers, adulterers. . . . I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get” (18:11-2).   In their zeal to further differentiate themselves, the Pharisees tagged on additional rules, “such as the washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles” (Mk. 7:4).   Upon seeing those who didn’t keep their rules, the Pharisees condemned them, even saying to Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders” (7:5).

Part of the reason behind the spiritual descent of the Pharisees was because they grossly mishandled the benefits that came their way as a result of honoring God.  During the intertestamental period, when Israel was under the Gentile domination, many of them died as martyrs for defending the Torah; subsequently, they became very prominent and were highly respected by the Jewish people.   Liking the attention, the Pharisees looked for ways to make certain that they sustained their position.  In fact, they couldn’t hand out a bag of groceries to the poor without calling in the press to make sure that everyone was aware that they were obeying God (Matt. 6:2).   This is how the Pharisees and the “older son” became legalistic about their own faith, while judging the rest who couldn’t keep up with them.

As for my earlier spiritual journey, after months of feeling bad, I began to see that God’s acceptance of me is based on His acceptance of Christ’s works performed on my behalf; since I’m in Christ, God accepts me apart from my own “works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:9).  Now, I can obey God out of gratitude and love towards Him instead of having to earn what has already been obtained in Christ.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 11-12

January 9, Friday

Editor’s Note: The AMI Quiet Times for January and February are provided by P. Ryun Chang, Teaching and Resource Pastor of AMI.

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning 

Luke 15:23-4 (NIV): “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.”

Matt. 21:28-31 (NIV): “What do you think?  There was a man who had two sons.  He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ [29] ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. [30] Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing.  He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. [31] Which of the two did what his father wanted?  ‘The first,’ they answered.”

Many years ago, our youth group drama team, for a Sunday service, did a skit about the Prodigal Son who now needed to work; after all, he had left the farm because he chose play over work.   Following the skit, I planned to show in my sermon that true salvation produces changes, like the first son in the Matthew parable who, after changing his mind (i.e., repenting), obeyed his father and went to work in the vineyard.

James, frowning on “faith” that elicits no changes, says, “What good is it . . .  if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save them?”  (James 2:14).   That is, merely saying that I believe, like “the demons [who] believe . . . and shudder” (2:19), is not an adequate evidence for a true faith.

8As for the skit, the team presented two prodigal sons who, after the weeklong party, are told by the father to rise up early to work; being grateful, they eagerly assure him that they would.  But once the morning arrives, the undisciplined sons struggle to rise: while son #1 never does, son #2 shows up late.  The father isn’t upset, but understanding.   By the end of the week, son # 1 finally arrives on time, while the other son, seeing that he doesn’t get punished, becomes brazen and makes no effort to get up to work.   Finally, the father pays the sleeping son a visit; meanwhile, the audience assumes that he is going to punish the son for taking his grace for granted.   Instead, the father says to his lazy and ungrateful son, “Let’s go have lunch.”  At that moment,  the song based on Romans 2:4 is played: “It’s your kindness that leads us to repentance, O Lord, knowing that you love us, no matter what we do, makes us want to love you too.”

The right information is necessary but is insufficient to change our selfish heart; rather, it is the realization of God’s amazing love bestowed upon callous and ungrateful people like us.  Today, be more mindful of being grateful to God; show it by being kind to undeserving people around you.

Prayer

O God, how beautiful and precious is Your amazing love for me! Your grace and mercy are like a deep well where there is no end to life-giving water that quenches thirst for meaning and life.   I love You, Lord, for the way You always take me back no matter what I do.  That motivates me to change.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 10

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Lunch Break Study 

Read James 2:20-4 (NIV): “You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? [21] Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? [22] You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. [23] And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. [24] You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”

Matt. 7:17-20 (NIV): “Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. [18] A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. [19] Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. [20] Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

Tit. 3:5-6 (NIV): “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior. . .”

Question to Consider

  1. What is the clear teaching found in all the passages?
  2. Why are changes expected in a person who is saved? That is, is salvation a matter of agreeing to a set of correct information about salvation, or along with that, the Holy Spirit coming into our hearts?
  3. What are some inherent dangers when we wonder about the salvation of those who do not show much changes? What are some areas that you need to work on to bring your shortcomings under the Lordship?

Notes

  1. Jesus and Apostle James expected that those who say they are saved demonstrate it by corresponding work or changes. Faith alone without work is grounds for questioning the authenticity of that faith.  Martin Luther: “We are saved by faith alone but not by faith that is alone.”
  2. The gospel is the necessary information without which salvation is not possible; and the Holy Spirit turns that information into the truth that organically changes the heart. This doesn’t necessarily mean visible changes right away, but it does mean initial changes in intent, desire, will and attitude (inward dimension).
  3. There are several dangers: one, judging people based on a small sample; two, since the faith journey fluctuates for many, it would be unfair to judge them when they are momentarily down. I prefer that we examine our own salvation (2 Cor. 13:5) instead of someone judging it (1 Cor. 4:5).

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 Evening Reflection

As you review today, what were some good and constructive things you did today that you wouldn’t have done if you weren’t a believer.  That, in short, may be part of the work that affirms your salvation.

January 8, Thursday

Editor’s Note: The AMI Quiet Times for January and February are provided by P. Ryun Chang, Teaching and Resource Pastor of AMI.

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning 

Luke 15:20 (NIV): 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.

Rom. 8:33-4 (NIV): “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. [34] Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.

In the 1980’s, no Christian song touched me like “When God Ran” (Benny Hester).  The powerful lyrics were sung passionately: “The only time I ever saw Him run, was when He ran to me, took me in His arms, held my head to His chest. . . Looked in my face, wiped the tears from my eyes, with forgiveness in His voice he said son, do you know I still love you.”

8Then in the 1990’s, an article (Kenneth E. Bailey) about the cultural significance of the “running father” jolted me.   According to the Jerusalem Talmud, during the time of Jesus, a ceremony called “Qetsatsah” was given to young Jews who lost their family inheritance to the Gentiles.  The villagers “would bring a large earthenware jar, filled it with burned nuts and burned corn, and break it in front of the guilty individual while shouting, ‘So-and-so is cut off from his people’. . . . Th[is] . . . shun appears to have been a total ban on any contact with the violator of the village code of honor.”

So, why did the father run?  He “realizes full well how his son will be welcomed in the village when he returns in failure.  Thus, the father also prepares a plan to reach the boy before the boy reaches the village.  The father knows that if he is able to achieve reconciliation with his son in public,” no one would dare perform the Quesatsah ceremony.   The father, in effect, was declaring, “I’ve forgiven my son, therefore, I won’t condemn him.”  Paul says it like this: “Who then is the one who condemns? No one. . . . Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

Mull on the running God, represented by an elderly Middle-Eastern father wearing a long cloak, who, in order to run, had to lift up the hem with his hands, thereby showing his bare legs—another act of humiliation to keep the son from being condemned.  And that’s what Jesus did for us by taking our place, humiliated and condemned to the cross, so that we may have life.  Share this good news with someone today.

Prayer

Oh Lord, I lift up Your holy name on high above all things in my life.  You are the supreme Ruler and King of my life.  How stunning it is to realize that You would run after me, even though I have said and done so many things to betray and deny You.  No words are apt to capture my gratitude.  Thank you.   Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 9

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Lunch Break Study 

Read Col. 2:13 (NIV): “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins, [14] having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.”

Rev. 12:10 (NIV): “For the accuser* of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night….” *Satan

Gal. 5:1 (NIV): “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

Question to Consider

  1. On what basis does the enemy (Satan) condemn and accuse us?
  2. In what manner was this condemnation taken away from us?
  3. If we truly understand and believe what was accomplished in Jesus for us, how should we live?

Notes

  1. “The charge of legal indebtedness” refers to all the laws of God that we have violated, which the devil (as if he were a prosecutor) uses to accuse and condemn us before God the Judge.
  2. God, as the law-giver, simply cannot forgive the violators as if they hadn’t done anything. Someone with a clean record (i.e., one who cannot be accused by the devil) must take the rap, which is what Christ did when he assumed the charge on our behalf by allowing himself to be nailed on the cross.
  3. We are now in a position to live in freedom. Other spiritual measures, such as discipleship, fellowship and inner-healing (for some), are also needed to make freedom an everyday reality, but it all starts with knowing that we’ve been set free through Christ’s victory over sin, death and devil.

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 Evening Reflection

In looking back to today, was there a moment when you tangibly sensed God’s awesome love for you?   Maybe it was an accident that you avoided, or an embarrassing situation that didn’t happen.  Look for God in small things in the context of everyday life.   Offer up a prayer of thanksgiving.

January 7, Wednesday

Editor’s Note: The AMI Quiet Times for January and February are provided by P. Ryun Chang, Teaching and Resource Pastor of AMI.

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning 

Luke 15:20-4 (NIV): 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.” 

1aWhat was the younger son thinking when it became evident that the blurry object from afar running towards him was his father? Perhaps, the son was assuming that the father was still fuming with anger, and even might have appeared to be so; his eyes might’ve been closed and his teeth clenched as the father lunged forward. But instead of a blow, the son was warmly embraced with a kiss, and given a hero’s welcome: a robe and ring of the highest quality, fancy footwear, and a party where nothing was spared. 7The stunned son was speechless; it was so unexpected. The words out of his mouth, initially part of a soliloquy to impress his father, now came out of the heart: “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.” The father’s grace had deeply moved him.

Many years ago, I used to exchange long e-mails with this seminarian, discussing many theological matters, including the order of salvation. Being a Calvinist who firmly upheld the doctrine of depravity of man (i.e., the corrupt man is unable to contribute anything to his salvation), he insisted that regeneration precedes faith because sinful humans, who are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:5), are unable to respond to the gospel on their own; thus, God must first make them spiritually alive so that they could believe. I used to tell him, “Don’t make science out of salvation; all aspects of salvation—regeneration, faith, repentance, justification—happen simultaneously.”  Now a seminary professor, he wrote me recently, saying, “I believe that regeneration and faith occur at the same time.”

However, one thing does precede everything else, and that’s what the younger son received from a father who not only forgave him, but gave him gifts that he didn’t deserve. This is called “grace,” of which Paul states, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

Not every day can be great, right? So, if today doesn’t go your way, remember that you’ve been tremendously blessed because the gift of salvation that was graciously given to you by God. Share that good news with someone today.

Prayer

My Lord and my God, how I love and praise You this morning.   All the glory and honor belong to You, especially in light of your amazing grace that no words can aptly capture. I am just thankful that your grace was more than sufficient to melt my crusty heart. Thank you. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 8

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Lunch Break Study 

Read 1 Sam. 30:3, 8-10, 18-24 (NIV): “When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive . . . [8] and David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?’ ‘Pursue them,’ he answered. ‘You will certainly overtake them and succeed in the rescue.’ [9] David and the six hundred men with him came to the Besor Valley, where some stayed behind. [10] Two hundred of them were too exhausted to cross the valley, but David and the other four hundred continued the pursuit. . . . [18] David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken, including his two wives. [19] Nothing was missing: young or old, boy or girl, plunder or anything else they had taken. David brought everything back. [20] He took all the flocks and herds, and his men drove them ahead of the other livestock. . . . [21] Then David came to the two hundred men who had been too exhausted to follow him and who were left behind at the Besor Valley. They came out to meet David and the men with him. As David and his men approached, he asked them how they were. [22] But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, ‘Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.’ [23] David replied, ‘No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the Lord has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us. [24] . . . The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike.’”

Question to Consider

  1. How would you describe the action taken by the two hundred men who quit the dangerous mission of rescuing their families? Do the four hundred men have the right to be upset at them?
  2. How would you differentiate the response by David and some of the four hundred men? Note: The two hundred didn’t have many supplies to guard since the Amalekites had taken everything.
  3. In what sense do David in this historical narrative and the father in the parable typify Jesus Christ? What is one thing that you can do today that would reflect that attitude/spirit of Christ?

Notes 

  1. The two hundred men were totally irresponsible, callous and selfish (like the son in the parable). In effect, they were saying to the four hundred, “Risk your life to save my families while I get my tan.” Of course, the four hundred men had a legitimate beef with them.
  2. On the one hand, the four hundred men treated the two hundred according to what they deserved: why should they get a portion of the plunder when they didn’t lift a finger to help out? On the other hand, David was being gracious with them, equally sharing the plunder with those who clearly didn’t deserve it.   “Staying with the supplies” was said in “love” because that wasn’t really true.
  3. David and the father typify the ministry of Christ in which he would die for an undeserving people to give them what they could never merit or earn. They beautifully capture the grace of God—a great favor imparted to those who least deserve it. Look for someone to do the same today.

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 Evening Reflection

Did you experience today God’s grace through someone who embodied it? Were you able grace someone with special favors? As you reflect on God’s grace, pray about gracing someone tomorrow.

January 6, Tuesday

Editor’s Note: The AMI Quiet Times for January and February are provided by P. Ryun Chang, Teaching and Resource Pastor of AMI.

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning 

Lk. 15:16-20 (ESV): And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. [17] But when he came to himself, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! [18] I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. [19] I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’” [20] And he arose and came to his father. . . .

Is. 58:3 (NIV):Why have we fasted,” they (Israelites) say, “and you (God) have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?

6aThe 4th century British monk Pelagius, being austere and moral, insisted that man is “still capable of choosing good or evil without special divine aid.” To him, the younger son in the parable was being genuine. That, however, is tantamount to seeing man as capable of saving himself without God’s initiative; the two preceding parables in Luke 15 suggest otherwise.  The lost coin and the lost sheep didn’t return home on their own willpower; instead, they were found by their respective owners who searched for them.

6bThe lost son, who, at this point in the parable, has yet to encounter his father’s grace, is no different.   Lost in his sin, he is still clueless about his father’s heart, believing that his anger will only subside unless he becomes a servant. The son’s decision to return is a desperate attempt by a desperately hungry man who, once again, was scheming to get what he wanted: it worked once (making him rich) and it should work again, that is, if the right things are said with the right emotions, so that he can eat.

Once, the Israelites were upset at God for not noticing their fasting and humility. So God responded, “[You] . . . seem eager for [me] to come near [you]. . . yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please. . . . You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high” (Is. 58:2). Like the younger son, the Israelites were scheming to get what they wanted from God, thinking, if we skip a few meals and shed some tears, God will be moved to see things our way.

But that’s not how it works, since God knows “what [is] in man” (Jn. 2:25). God is not moved by our cheap ploys, however holy they may appear to others.   Instead, what He wants is this: “Experience first my kindness expressed in my Son Christ, then allow that to ‘lead you toward repentance’” (Rom. 2:4). Are you scheming these days to bend God’s arm to get what you want? Don’t.   Encounter once again His grace; repent then obey.

Prayer

Father in heaven, I adore You this morning for your kindness towards me. Though I have tried numerous times to trick You with my superficial spirituality, thank You that the Spirit in me has always shown me a better way—loving You with all my heart and obeying You wholeheartedly. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 7

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Lunch Break Study 

Read Luke 5:4-8 (ESV):  “And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’ [5] And Simon answered, ‘Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.’ [6] And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. [7] They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. [8] But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’”

Luke 19:5-8 (ESV): “And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.’ [6] So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. [7] And when they saw it, they all grumbled, ‘He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.’ [8] And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’” 

Rom. 2:4 (ESV): “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” 

Question to Consider

  1. What did Peter and Zacchaeus first encounter; and afterward, how did they respond to Christ?
  2. In what ways was Christ being kind to Peter and Zacchaeus?
  3. In what ways is God showing His kindness toward you these days? How should you respond to it?

Notes 

  1. They first experienced Christ’s kindness expressed towards them; as a result of being touched by Christ in this manner, they responded with penitence and repentance.
  2. Regarding Peter who obviously was both tired and disappointed over not catching a single fish despite working all night, Christ cared that he had enough fish, among other reasons, to feed his family. With respect to Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector whom everyone hated, Christ showed kindness by befriending him, even willing to stay at his house. Zacchaeus was moved and felt very grateful.
  3. Personally, God has been very kind to our two children by allowing them to complete college without incurring any debt. A proper response should consist of a grateful heart and being generous with those in need.

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 Evening Reflection

As you reflect on this day, did you scheme to somehow bend God’s arm to get Him to do what you want? While God will never do that, it is amazing how frequently we choose that route.   What is the situation that is causing you to scheme? What should you do instead?

January 5, Monday

Editor’s Note: The AMI Quiet Times for January and February are provided by P. Ryun Chang, Teaching and Resource Pastor of AMI.

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning 

Luke 15:14-6 (NASB):  “Now when he had spent everything, a severe famine occurred in that country, and he began to be impoverished. [15] So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. [16] And he would have gladly filled his stomach with the pods that the swine were eating, and no one was giving anything to him.”  

Lev. 11:7-8 (NASB): And the pig, for though it divides the hoof, thus making a split hoof, it does not chew cud, it is unclean to you. [8] You shall not eat of their flesh nor touch their carcasses; they are unclean to you.”

6Jesus has the penniless, younger son work alongside of, not sheep, but swine—the very animal he was told from a young age not to touch, much less eat.  The downward spiral of sin had reached its destination; there was no place to sink lower for this Jewish man who wished to eat the very pods that the pigs were consuming only if someone would offer them.  Perhaps, he whispered to himself, what good are the lessons my father taught me when my stomach is empty?

His spiritual regression was now complete: “After desire [for self-autonomy was] conceived, it [gave] birth to sin; and sin, when it [was] full-grown, [gave] birth to death” (James 1:15).  Having broken the father’s heart with ease, and wasted all his wealth on a reckless lifestyle, nothing sacred remained in his life; now, everything was negotiable.

King Ahaz of Judah grew up under a godly father (Jotham) who “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Ki. 15:34).  But unlike his father, Ahaz “follow[ed] the detestable ways of the [pagan] nations.”  While it was hunger that made the younger son let go of the values he grew up with, for Ahaz, it was the invasion launched by a united army of Aram and the Northern Kingdom that led to forsaking his values.  Though desperate, instead of calling upon the God of his father for help, Ahaz sent messengers to the Assyrian king, saying, “I am your servant and vassal.  Come up and save me.”  To bolster his request, Ahaz “took the silver and gold found in the temple of God . . . and sent it as a gift” (16:7-8).

An unchecked sin has a snow ball effect: once allowed to reach a critical stage in our lives, we “may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness” (Heb. 3:13); as a result, we “remain[] stiff-necked after many rebukes . . . [and] suddenly be destroyed—without remedy” (Prov. 29:1).  Thus, it is imperative that those who live in sin heed Isaiah 55:6: “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near” (NASB).   Don’t wait until God is in the disciplinary mode (Heb. 12:7-12).  Repent today.

Prayer

O holy and righteous God in whom there is neither darkness nor deception, I worship and exalt You this morning.  Strengthen me, Father, to hate sin and to flee from the evil desires of youth; help me to pursue righteousness and a pure heart instead.  Thank You always for Your loving kindness.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 6

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Lunch Break Study 

Read Ezekiel 18:1-5, 10, 13-14, 17 (NIV): The word of the Lord came to me: [2] “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel: ‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?”  [3] “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. [4] For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child—both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die. [5] “Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right. . . . [9] He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws.  That man is righteous; he will surely live. . . .[10] Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things. . . . [13] He lends at interest and takes a profit. Will such a man live?  He will not!  Because he has done all these detestable things, he is to be put to death; his blood will be on his own head. . . . [14] But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things: . . . [17] He withholds his hand from mistreating the poor and takes no interest or profit from them.  He keeps my laws and follows my decrees. He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live.”

Question to Consider

  1. While we recognize parental influence over our children’s thoughts and behavior, this passage shows a different side to parenting. What is it?
  2. What does this passage reveal about free will and the basis for God’s judgment (2 Cor. 5:10)?
  3. What are some issues in your life which you have failed to take full responsibility for? Make a short list and then own them—meaning confess your sins to God and to the wronged party.

Notes

  1. Children do not automatically imitate the examples set by their parents, whether good or bad. A righteous father may end up with a wicked son; while from a wicked father may derive a righteous son.
  2. This passage ultimately dismisses any excuse offered by men who would rather blame their parents or social environment for their spiritual failures; God will hold each individual responsible for his actions because the proper exercise of free will can overcome even the worst parental example.
  3. Once, I found out to my horror that I came to the airport without my luggage. So as I began to shift the blame on my wife who drove me there, she reminded me, “I came out of the house first.”  Oops.  So I ended up taking this international flight without any clothes other than what I was wearing.

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 Evening Reflection

For most of us, at the end of day, it is hard to tell whether we actually sinned or not.  One reason is because our conscience has been so dulled to the point of normalizing what is clearly sin.  Take a moment to reflect whether you lied today or told something that wasn’t completely true for some gain.  Did you say anything that was intended as an insult or slight?  Confess; ask the Lord to help you not to repeat these sins.