January 4, 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 15:13-5 (NIV): “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. [14] After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.”

What was this guy thinking? Did he think that the money he had was going to last forever? Of course, when a person is preoccupied with seeking pleasure, he rarely thinks about the future, much less prepare for it.

Drinking Up Without SpanishI know this all too well from my wild college days. With three weeks left in school, I had no permanent place to sleep because my roommates and I had been evicted from the rented house near the campus because of too many loud parties. Being worldly and immature, I kept partying every day, without having secured a place to sleep on some evenings, only to realize at midnight that I had no place to go. So on several occasions, I snuck into my old, vacant house and slept in the cold basement with newspapers as my blanket. A few weeks later, when I read this parable for the first time after becoming a Christian, I readily saw myself in this younger son who lived the life of a fool.

There are a lot of things overrated in our trend- and viral-happy society—one of them is pleasure, whether physical, emotional or material. But nothing lasts; it gets mundane and boring.   King Solomon who once declared, “I denied myself nothing my eyes desire; I refused my heart no pleasure,” had this to say at the end of his days: “Everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind” (Eccles. 2:11). And anyone (not named Solomon or Bill Gates) “who loves pleasure will become poor; whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich” (Prov. 21:17).

So, what is your pleasure? Accumulation of wealth, moving up the corporate ladder, being seen with the right people, or wearing trendy, name brand clothes? Or is it still living a life of a party animal with lots of booze and drugs, and chasing after members of the opposite sex? Enjoy these moments, that is, if you can, because nothing in life apart from God brings lasting and permanent satisfaction.  The great church father St. Augustine, whose earlier lifestyle would rival that of a modern gigolo, confessed, You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

Take a moment right now to reconnect to your Creator whohas . . . set eternity in the hearts of men” (Eccles. 3:11); that longing for everlasting life as well as a meaningful life here-and-now can only be filled by the One who has made us.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 5

 

January 3, Saturday

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning 

Luke 15:12-3 (ESV):   “And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country….”

Is. 57:17 (NIV): “I was enraged by their sinful greed.”

partycityIn an agrarian society as in the biblical times, what was given to the younger son wasn’t like a cashier’s check worth one-third of the net asset (since the oldest received a double portion), but a deed transferring the ownership of the land and animals.  The son, before leaving for a distant country, first had to liquidate the property; thus, the Good News Translations says, “The younger son sold his part of the property and left home with the money.”

Imagine a knock on the door by a potential buyer and the clueless father who, upon opening it, was told by the stranger that he came to buy the land as advertised.   As the father was about to say, “You have the wrong house,” he is rudely interrupted by the younger son who says, “Dad, that’s for me.”   “Son,” says the trembling father, “that land has been part of our family for generations.”   The son, totally driven by self-interest and utterly indifferent to how his selfish action is affecting his old father, responds, “It’s my land now; I will do as I wish.”

That is what the human heart, ravaged by sinful greed, is really like: “More deceitful than all else and is desperately sick” (Jer. 17:7 NASB).  It is totally committed to the advancement of self-interest, whether relational or financial; it hardly thinks about its effect on others.  Every adultery or lie to bring someone down to advance one’s career is driven by selfishness and indifference.  And Jesus has the younger son embody that, to show its final outcome.

Of course, social science has long tried to obliterate the word “sin” out of existence, but that hasn’t stopped its destructive effect on people.   Over half a century ago, Hobart Mauer, who was the head of the American Psychological Association, declared, “If a psychologist is going be able to deal with the reality of shame and guilt, we have to somehow understand a new term.  We just can’t talk about it as wrong doing or maladjustment.  We may have to reintroduce the word ‘sin’ into the vocabulary of the psychologists.  I’m neither a believer nor a religious man.  I don’t even like the word ‘sin’ but it carries a greater sense of reality of what it is all about than the words we use.  I am just pragmatically borrowing the word only to be able to alleviate the sense of guilt and shame with which we live.”

sinAs we will discover from further study of this parable, there is only one way to deal with sin; and it is not therapy or psychoanalysis.   Ironically, the clearest response to this problem came from another psychologist, Larry Crabb, who simply said that “repentance” before a holy God was the answer.   Sadly, Mauer never reached that conclusion; he committed suicide.  What would the younger son do once his sin takes him to the deep bottom?  What would you do?  But there is a better way; turn back to God before reaching that gloomy state of hopelessness.  Do it today.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 3-4 

January 2, Friday

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning 

Lk. 15:11-2 (TLB):  To further illustrate the point, [Jesus] told them this story: “A man had two sons. [12] When the younger told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now, instead of waiting until you die!’ his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.”

Gn. 2:16-7 (NIV):You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”

2To a typical Middle-Eastern father, this was a preposterous request.  A brazen son making such an inappropriate request would’ve been thrown out of the house instead of being “coddled.”  So why does Jesus allow this father to appear so weak?   While that certainly doesn’t depict the Father in heaven whom we love and fear, Jesus is implicitly showing what free will is capable of: rejecting or accepting God; or obeying or disobeying Him.

Who hasn’t complained to God who allows evil in the world, but have we considered its alternative:  A world without free will wherein the push of a divine button set in motion human actions that would be predetermined?   Loving God in this manner wouldn’t glorify Him in the least.   Thus, one great gift that God bestowed upon humanity is free will, beginning with the first man; and whatever man decides—whether good or bad—God will honor.   And God has equipped us to make the right choices, but the responsibility of making those decisions belong squarely to man.

Around Christmas time in 1981, I made an important decision that would affect the rest of my life.   A few months after I became a believer in Los Angeles, my church sent me to Fresno to study at a Bible college.  While there, my faith had become so weakened that I decided to return home to Virginia.   Despite a friend’s plea to reconsider, I took a ride with another friend who lived in Silver City, NM.  While there, I was hoping to earn enough money to fly home, but while attending the church pastored by my friend’s father, an inner voice (i.e., the Holy Spirit) kept telling me to go back to L.A.   After struggling with this decision, I took a bus back to L.A. with borrowed money.   Upon meeting my pastor, I asked him to disciple me at his church, which he did for the next two years; and that became the spiritual foundation for the rest of my life.

So, what decision are you facing today?  Don’t be hasty; spend time in the Word and prayer to discern God’s will for your life.  You are free to disobey, but that would be an unwise usage of God’s great gift to us: free will (to choose His will).

Prayer

Dear God, I praise and exalt You this morning.  I especially thank you for the gift of free will that I would choose You out of my own volition.  What an awesome and terrifying responsibility, but at the same time, I am at peace knowing that You have not left me alone to figure this out on my own.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 2

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Lunch Break Study 

Read Joshua 24:15 (ESV): “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

 John 14:26 (ESV): “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

Question to Consider

  1. What similarity do you see between what Joshua did with the Israelites to what the father in the parable did?
  2. What are some important ways in which God helps us (the believers) to make the right decisions?
  3. What are some decisions you are facing right now? How are you approaching them?  What changes do you need to make to wisely use your free will to submit to God’s will for your life?

Notes

  1. Joshua, recognizing the free will that the Israelites possessed, showed what the choices were. The father in the parable simply honored the choice his son made, even though it wasn’t the right choice.  They both showed the importance of making the right decision.
  2. At the moment of salvation, God pours out the Spirit on us generously (Tit. 3:6). The Holy Spirit’s main task is to guide the believers toward the right path by reminding them of the Words of Christ.  In this way, God has provided the necessary means—the Spirit and the Word— to make the right decisions.  Of course, this works best in the context of belonging to a body (i.e., church) where the different parts with unique giftings can minister to each other.
  3. As I am writing this, I am thinking about how I can help my children to make the right decisions for their lives that would honor God (such as, why go to college, and what to do afterwards).

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 Evening Reflection

As you look back to today, what important decisions did you face?  Did you already make them?  If not, spend some time in prayer, reflecting on the Scriptures (e.g., Proverbs 16:1-4), and to be led by the Spirit.

January 1, Thursday

Note: The January Quiet Time is based on the parables of Jesus.  The devotionals for Jan. 1-14 is based on the Parable of the Lost Son; read the entire parable today.

Luke 15:11-32 (ESV): And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. [12] And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. [13] Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. [14] And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. [15] So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. [16] 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. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. [21] And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ [22] But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. [24] For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

1a[25] “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. [26] And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. [27] And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ [28] But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, [29] but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. [30] But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ [31] And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. [32] It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning 

Luke 15:1 (ESV): “Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. [2] And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’”

Certain stories are worth retelling, though their meaning may be slightly different when told to different audiences. My favorite story that I love to retell is what my father told his Hindu doctor, when told that he had only 4 months to live because of terminal lung cancer.

1bBut going back to today’s passage, isn’t it amazing that if Luke hadn’t included the oft-cited Parable of the Lost Son in his Gospel, no one would’ve known about it?  When this story was first shared by Jesus, his listeners were all Jews consisting of “tax collectors and sinners,’” and “the Pharisees and the teachers of the law” (15:1-2), respectively.  The legalistic older son represented the latter who mercilessly judged the reckless younger son who represented the former.   However, when Luke, the Gentile writer, retold this story, it was addressed to Theophilus (1:3), “the normal title for a high official in the Roman government” (Barclay).  So, in the context of making appeals to the Gentiles, the older son represented the Israelites who had no love for the Gentiles whom the younger son represented.  Subsequently, the original message aimed at the Pharisees—“Don’t be judgmental”—was now applied to the entire Israel; and the promise of God’s love and acceptance of Jewish sinners was now extended to the Gentiles who saw that Israel’s God was universal.   And that’s a story worth retelling!

As for my father, he said, “You say cancer; I say no problem. I like Jesus Christ. God blessed my life; I go when God calls.” The Hindu doctor, instead of being offended, was moved, saying, “I am happy to be here, to be in the moment with you because people do not respond this way with this kind of devastating news.”  When I retell this powerful story, I say it like this: “My dad’s apologetics was quite simple: When you get terminal cancer, then, tell the doctor, ‘No problem because of Jesus.’  That’s nothing like my apologetics, full of clever arguments that may titillate the mind but not much else.”

As we start the New Year, let’s really live for Jesus, building many memories worth sharing with our loved ones.

Prayer

Heavenly Father, I praise you and glorify You on this first day of 2015.  My heart is full of gratitude and thanksgiving because of Your continuous and ceaseless love toward me in Christ.  May this year be full of special memories in my walk with You, so that I can tell of your greatness to others.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 1

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Lunch Break Study 

A very popular god among the Greco-Romans was Dionysus, the god of wine.  Believing that god was in the wine, its followers consumed much wine to get intoxicated.   John, now living in the Greek city of Ephesus in Asia Minor (Turkey today), wrote his Gospel to appeal to the Greeks.

Read John 2:7-10 (ESV): Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. [8] And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. [9] When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom [10] and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.”

Hosea 14:7: “They shall return and dwell beneath my (God’s) shadow; they shall flourish like the grain;
they shall blossom like the vine; their fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.”

Eph. 5:18-9 (ESV): “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,

[19] addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart,. . .”

Question to Consider

  1. What was John implying by including this story in his Gospel (the only gospel writer to do so) to reach out to the Dionysus-following and wine-drinking Greco-Romans?
  2. Utilizing these passages, how would you communicate the gospel to those who are chasing after worldly pleasure at the expense of knowing God?
  3. Paul says that we “are a letter from Christ . . . known and read by everybody” (2 Cor. 3:2). If you are the wine from Christ, known and drank by people who see you every day, how would it taste?  What areas do you need to improve so that they will say, “Ah the good wine!”

Notes

  1. John is implying that Jesus makes better wine than Dionysus; that is, while the consumption of literal wine only leads to debauchery, being filled with another kind of wine, the Spirit, will lead to security, joy and growth.
  2. Much like a hangover after a night of drinking much wine, the worldly pleasure outside of the will of God only leads to more problems, like loneliness, emptiness and broken relationships.  But when we live in God, under His protection, we can truly be content and joyous.
  3. For me, when I preach, I need to be more calm and collective; I need to be more patient with my children and wife (again!).

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 Evening Reflection

As you wrap up the first day of the year, share a moment through which God spoke to you today.  It doesn’t have to be loud or spectacular, but something that caught your attention, however brief.

AMI Quiet Times Evaluation

Hello Faithful Quiet Time Readers,

As we wrap up this year of AMI Quiet Times, we would like to get your feedback on the AMI Quiet Times thus far.  We plan on continuing the daily quiet time entries throughout the next year, and would like to hear how we can improve in the new year.

Please take some time to answer the following questions.  You may respond either directly to this post or email your answers to bkuboyama@gmail.com.

1) How have the AMI Quiet Times blessed you?

2) Which aspect of the quiet time entries did you enjoy the most?

3) How could we improve it for next year?

Thank you for your time, and may you be blessed as we wrap up this year together!

Warm regards,

AMI General Editors