February 3, Sunday

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Looking to the Lord”

Psalm 63:1-8

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. 2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. 3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. 4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, 6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; 7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. 8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.

As the psalmists describe God’s greatness, we can find an awesome opportunity to look to the Lord instead of ourselves. Personally, this is very restful for my soul because some mornings are challenging to be grounded in the Lord.

Every day, I wake up, get ready for work, and go onto my commute. From the time I wake up to the brisk morning walk to the train station—though my body moves with the daily routine—it is easy for anxiety and busyness to muddy my heart. By the time I’m finally sitting in the train, my mind catches up and then a sense of emptiness sets in. Though I am very thankful for my job and to be working, there are days when my heart feels “off.”  But it’s not until I meet with the Lord that my heart is filled. As I look to the Lord, the work I need to do for the day doesn’t go away, the backed-up projects don’t finish by themselves, difficult situations and people to face don’t suddenly get resolved, but as I rest in God’s greatness and love, my soul is strengthened for what’s ahead.

Worshipping the Lord and experiencing His faithfulness is where our hearts are meant to be. When we seek the Lord and find Him in worship, just beholding Him in His power and glory, it is powerful—we do not need to earn, but just behold. Unlike possessions, no one can steal or take away His steadfast and unfailing love that is available to us.

No matter how empty may we feel it is true that our souls can be satisfied as with fat and rich food—for true soul food is found in the Lord! The Lord has been faithful to us and has helped us. Our help comes from the Lord, and the One who made all the heavens and the earth—who knows how intricately everything works together—He is the One who secures us. He is fully aware and at work. He is the One who keeps His people through the highs and lows.  It’s God, not money, health, or people that keep us blessed and protected—He is the One who is keeping us.

Our God is steadfast. He is our hope and stay. Though the day ahead might be heavy, let’s not muddy our hearts by fixing our gaze on the day, but let’s meet with the Lord and behold Him in His power, glory, and steadfast love!

Prayer: Lord, thank You for who You are. You are powerful, glorious, and loving. Lord, the day ahead may be busy, so we especially want to rest our souls in You. You have been our help and so we cling to You. Holy Spirit, please help our hearts to behold Jesus this morning. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 39

February 2, Saturday

The AMI Spiritual Food for Thought for the weekend of February 2-3 is provided by Jin Ha Lee who serves at Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia. Jin Ha, a CPA, graduated from Drexel University and just got married to Aerin this past November. Congratulations!

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“A Sure Return”

Galatians 6:6-10

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

 Around a year ago there was a craze around “cryptocurrency” (e.g. Bitcoin), but I didn’t pay attention to it as something to invest money into. However, during this hype, one of my friends told me that he had invested into cryptocurrency and made X amount of money in one year. I was shocked because within one year of his investment, he had profited an amount that was equal to an annual salary! Long story short, I hastily tried to invest, but after praying through it and receiving wise counsel, I backed out because it was an impulsive decision made out of envy. Soon after, the cryptocurrency trend took a downward turn and had sunk in value.

Sometimes, it’s easy to get caught up into investing our money, time, and energy into earthly activities that are uncertain in their “return”—especially when it seems like everyone else is thriving and we’re missing out. However, Paul’s reminder to the Galatian church was to endure in investing in a return that is secured by the Lord Himself.

In the backdrop of grace, there is a principle of reaping what we sow, and in due season, reaping what we sow for the Lord is not an uncertainty—but a promise! The reward of living for the Lord and being used by Him for His kingdom is not a matter of “if” but a matter of “when.”

Exerting our energy into selfishness (different from self-care), sin, and fleeting materialism will reap exactly that—more selfishness, deeper bondage in sin, and emptiness (because all that we own on this earth will rust away).

I still stay in touch with that friend who invested in cryptocurrency, and we joke around about investments. With what we know today, what investments would we make if we could go back 20 years? We bring up investing in stocks like Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and others because we know today that they grew exponentially in value. Only if we knew 20 years ago!

One day, we will come face to face with the Lord; except then, we won’t be able to joke around about what we should have sown into—it would be too late. Today, God’s Word clearly tells us that we will reap what we sow. We can have a sure expectation that the ways we are sowing for the Lord now will result in reaping in its due season—if we do not give up.

Are you weary of doing good? The Lord understands. Let’s rest and strengthen ourselves in the Lord. Paul follows the call to endure with this reminder: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”

Prayer: Lord, thank You for giving us opportunity to do good, especially to those who are part of the body of Christ. God, please use us to strengthen, refresh, and bless others. As we serve others, please bring alongside brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage us so that we can all continue to sow faithfully. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 37-38

February 1, Friday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Joshua Chzen who serves as the college pastor at Kairos Christian Church (San Diego, California). Joshua, a graduate of University of California, San Diego, is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity at Bethel Seminary. He and Sandra were married in 2017.  

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Always Worthy”

Habakkuk 3:17-18

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

Our church has been going through a study on the book of James in our life groups. (We just finished up the first chapter this week.) Since James begins his letter talking about enduring through trials and testing of our faith, we naturally spent a lot of time discussing the topic of suffering.

If I’m being completely honest, I haven’t experienced much suffering.  As someone who grew up in relative stability and now lives in relative comfort, there hasn’t been a lot in the way of adversity or trauma. Depending on your perspective, you could argue that it was to my benefit, or to my detriment (or both). You may find yourself relating to my background, or you might be reading this as someone from the opposite end of the spectrum.

Looking to the prophet Habakkuk, we see someone who understood the pain of suffering, for God had shown him the impending destruction and violence that was to come upon the people of Judah. They would be subject to attack, plunder, and oppression by Babylonian Empire, and consequently, experience the ultimate humiliation and injustice.  In response, Habakkuk voices unhappiness, confusion, and pain—even questioning God’s method and challenging His motive in allowing something like this to happen to His own people. And at the end of his closing prayer he paints a bleak picture of complete desolation: there is no fruit on the trees, no crops in the fields, no animals in the farmland; there is nothing left in which to find value, comfort, or joy. However, it’s in this same breath that Habakkuk reaffirms his faith and joy in God, and that He is still worthy of praise. It makes little sense from a worldly perspective, but Habakkuk knew God so deeply that his conviction to worship Him remained even in the worst of circumstances.

Having only a limited experience with pain and trial, it can be easy for me (and likely many of us) to default to unhappiness and confusion when difficulties arise. That combination can often give way to doubt—doubting God’s character, His intentions, and His plan. Paul presents one way to keep suffering grounded in perspective—it produces perseverance, character, and ultimately hope (Rom. 5:3-5). James writes that trial leads to maturity (Jas. 1:2-4). And while these are good reasons to rejoice in difficult moments, ultimately, they are grounded in God Himself. He is our deepest source of joy. Tough circumstances may change (for better or for worse), or they may not; but God himself is always good, always faithful, and always worthy to be praised.

Prayer: Lord, I thank You that You’re unchanging in character, intention, and plan. I could have nothing going my way, or everything going my way; but God, You are still the same, and You’re my greatest reason to rejoice. Help me to remember who You are when things are hard. In Your name, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 36


Lunch Break Study

Read James 1:2-8 (NIV): Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does James say about trials? What is the ultimate result?
  2. What does James say about doubt?
  3. What role do you think wisdom plays in this context?

Notes

  1. James states that trials serve to test faith, which produces perseverance, which ultimately leads to maturity and completeness. It’s because of this that we should approach these situations with joy.
  2. James refers to those who doubt as “double-minded and unstable in all they do” and demonstrates this with the imagery of waves. He also says those who ask with doubt should not expect to receive anything from God.
  3. Those who lack wisdom presumably have not completed the process of becoming “mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Evening Reflection

Are you going through any sort of difficulty? Are there circumstances you’re unhappy with? Relationships that only bring you frustration? Ask God for joy to fill your heart and wisdom to live out His will – He might not change our surroundings, but He will change our hearts when we are open.

January 31, Thursday

The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith.  Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“How John Tran Became Equal to Benjamin Netanyahu”

2 Kings 5:1-5 (ESV)

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. 2 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet [Elijah] who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5 And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.”

We often ignore seemingly insignificant characters who play important roles in great narratives. So, while we are well acquainted with General Naaman and Prophet Elijah—the two main protagonists in the above passage—we hardly ever talk about the nameless Israelite girl who led this general to proclaim, “I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel” (1 Kings 5:15). Without her informing Naaman about Elijah, there may not have been any story to tell.

Yesterday, you met John—a Vietnamese believer who not only learned to play the harp but also made harps, all without formal training in just two years. How? John’s unequivocal response: “God.” So, how well does John play the harp? Skilled enough that he was the only Vietnamese to be invited to be one of fifty harp players who led worship at the All Nations Convocation Jerusalem 2018 where 5,500 delegates from 150 nations participated.  What about the quality of his harps? Remember the thirty harps he was told that God wanted him to make? Well, they were all used at this international convocation.

So the conference organizers, amazed by John’s story, asked him to share his testimony in front of thousands of people—including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is not an overtly religious Jew. John’s sharing left no doubt that his ability to play and make harps came from Christ, who gave him strength and wisdom through the Spirit. Afterwards, Netanyahu sought out John and upon finding him, this powerful man told John—an “insignificant” person from Vietnam—“You cannot show us [Jews] that you are smarter than us; you cannot say to us that you are richer than us; but I can see now that we are the same because you have the Holy Spirit.” Suffice it to say, the prime minister was greatly moved by what he heard.

Certainly, in the world and even in church, people like the nameless servant girl and John—an ordinary guy just wanting to serve the Lord—are often dismissed.  Zechariah 4:10a says this: “Who despises the day of small things [or people]?” followed by, “Men will rejoice” when God uses these small things for something great.  This assuredly gives us a great hope that God can use us, too, for His glory! And if no one recognizes contributions you made towards God’s work, then, don’t be dismayed, for “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them” (Heb. 6:10).

Meanwhile, let us be ready in prayer and preparation, so that when God calls us to do something beyond our ability, we will take the first step of obedience in faith.

Prayer: Father, in a world where we get beaten up because we are not good or talented enough, it is comforting to know that You choose “the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”   So whenever I am called to obey Your next assignment, strengthen me to do just that: Obey You.

Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 35


Lunch Break Study

Read Proverbs 22:27 (ESV): “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men”

Ecclesiastes 10:10 (NVI): “If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success.”

Ps. 33:3 (ESV): “Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Based on these passages, what is expected of us with respect to what we do for work, profession and/or ministry? What is this about?
  2. What are some benefits of improving our professional/ministerial skill-set?
  3. How can we improve our skill set (1 Cor. 11:1)?

Notes

  1. The expectation is for our skill sets to improve, not stay at the same level. This has to do with our stewardship: getting the most of out of the talents and gifts God has given us.
  2. First, our improved skill set can lead to enlarging the sphere of influence for Christ (“before kings”); second, it can also lead to less energy spent while working and gain more.
  3. First, “practice makes perfect”; second, apprenticeship (i.e., learning from those who are skillful); and third, praying for God’s wisdom so that we are wise in improving our skills.

Evening Reflection

Before going to bed, consider one tendency of ours that is counterproductive: Once we have reached a certain level of skill-set (“It’s good enough”), we become satisfied and then try to coast thereafter. Instead of continuing to improve, we focus more on leisure and recreation. Are you like that right now? What is one area in your life in which your ability to handle it is not your best (e.g., parenting, making power points, etc.).  Pray to the Lord that He will give you desire and determination to enhance and improve your skill-set, so that you will stand before “kings,”; and work less and with the time saved serve the Lord more.

January 30, Wednesday

The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith.  Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“With God, Watch Out for a Very Unexpected Career”

Philippians 4:13

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

I first met John and Esther in 2009, when I taught a class in Vision University in Vietnam—they both were students there. Having met in our school, they later got married, moved to Malaysia to serve for two years, and then returned home.  (They finally finished their bachelor program in 2016.) At the conclusion of my recent class in Vietnam for a master’s degree program of Kairos Global University (Nov. 2018), John invited me to dinner at what turned out to be a fancy restaurant. When he came to pick me up, I was surprised to see his vehicle—not a scooter (the mode transportation for almost all Vietnamese) but a fairly new car. Later, while eating dinner at a restaurant, John shared a recent turn of events that shook his life upside down. Here is a condensed version of it.

About two years ago, a believer in Malaysia told John that God wanted him to not only play a harp, but make one. (“That is so random,” I thought.)  Anyway, how did John—who had never seen a harp much less have $3,000 to buy one—respond? Understandably, “crazy” was the first thing that came to his mind.  Nevertheless, John began to pray that God would provide a harp—if this was His will.

In the meantime, a Christian lady in Singapore (who didn’t know John) felt that the Lord wanted her to sell the gold she recently inherited from her deceased mother and bless someone with it.  When she shared her desire in the cell group, there happened to be someone who knew John and told her about his situation. So then, this sister in Singapore decided to bless John with a new harp! That happened two months after John started praying. So John started learning to play on his own with his new harp.  Not only that, he actually made a harp, which took three months. Incredulous, when I asked him how he did it, John said, “God taught me.”  Well, what can you say to that? (See Lunch Break Study).

The craziness doesn’t stop here. Around this time, the same Malaysian believer told John that God wanted him to make 30 harps. He was shocked, yet he responded by making all of them, in two months! So stunned by what I was hearing, I put my fork down around this time. I will tell you what he did with the harps tomorrow, but so far John has made 700 harps! So, John and Esther, who still remember the time when they could afford only one meal a day, were able, with this unexpected blessing from the Lord, to buy a small vehicle for their growing family (a second child on the way) and treat me to a very nice meal.

Let John’s story remind you that “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Phi. 4:13); “delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart (Ps. 37:4). Yes, we must be careful with the blessings God gives us—something John and Esther are quite aware—but allow John’s story to remind us that “everything is possible for him who believes” (Mk. 9:23). So, believe, pray, and work hard (Prov. 14:23).

Prayer: Dear Lord, we love You and praise You. Thank You for all the great promises that You have given us. We are often timid and pessimistic, but we are so thankful that we can have a full confidence in You to do the impossible in and through us.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 34

Tomorrow’s Blog: “How John Tran Became Equal to Benjamin Netanyahu”


Lunch Break Study

Read Mark 11:23-24:

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Proverbs 14:23:

“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.”

2 Tim. 2:6:

“The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops.”  

Questions to Consider

  1. The Mark 11:23-24 passage is loved by the advocates of Prosperity Theology. Why do you think they like this passage so much? What is a danger of misunderstanding this passage?
  2. What is the antidote to misunderstanding or abusing passages like this?
  3. New Year is a time of hope! What are you going to trust God with for this coming year? Is this something achievable by talents and training you already possess/have or something beyond your ability?  Can you raise the bar a little so that you have to trust God for it?

Notes

  1. One reason the advocates of Prosperity Theology like this passage is that they think that they can get whatever they desire. Also, too much emphasis is placed on what they hope God would do for them and not enough on men’s responsibility.
  2. The antidote to the possible abuse is that we need to work—and work hard! While John said that God was the One who taught him how to play and make the harp, I am very sure he read some books on it or even watched some You-Tube videos.  And he worked hard and prayed even harder.
  3. I trusted God to publish a book in 2017. God answered that prayer in 2018. I worked hard and prayed harder.

Evening Reflection

Did you get to pray today? What are you praying about? Do you trust God that He is willing and able to accomplish amazing things in your life?  While we need to be content with our present life, we also ought to have a holy-discontentment, wanting everything God has planned and prepared for us.  Remember 1 John 5:14-15: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

January 29, Tuesday

The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith.  Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.

Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.  I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.  

 

Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today

“‘The Bible Approves of the Oppression of Women’: Is That Right?”

1 Corinthians 14:34

“The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.”

Romans 16:1

“I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant [diakonos in Greek from which the English word “deacon/deaconess” is derived] of the church which is at Cenchrea.”

I have a very famous cousin who grew up attending church but has long left the faith. When asked why, he said it was due to the poor treatment of women taught in Scripture and practiced by the church. That response reminded me of a pamphlet I got from The United Atheists of America that says, “The harm done to women by the Christian religion began with the Bible giving the stamp of God’s approval to the oppression of women. Christian men used the Bible to keep women silent, submissive and uneducated for centuries.” No doubt, today’s passage—one that tells the women to be silent in the church—would rank high in the cynics’ laundry list against the church. Sure, that and few other passages in the Bible look awful in the modern era where women can not only vote, which became a law only about 100 years ago, but run for political offices— including the POTUS.

But, before condemning the church as the enemy of women, please recognize this simple fact: In antiquity women were treated badly across the board; that is to say, no men living in antiquity—regardless of whether they were today’s equivalent of conservatives, liberals or left, religious or irreligious—could be deemed pro-women in light of today’s enlightened standard. So, to fairly judge the early church’s treatment of women, the merits of the church should be compared to the standard of that era.  

When that’s done, you would agree with what Rodney Stark (then a sociologist at the University of Washington) writes in The Rise of Christianity (1996), described by Newsweek as brilliant. To the charge that “the Bible . . . ke[pt] women silent, submissive and uneducated,” Stark declares, “They’re all wrong.” How? According to this leading sociologist, “Christianity ‘promoted liberty, social relations between the sexes and within the family’ . . ., giving women more status than they enjoyed in Rome society, where they remained the property of men.’” Furthermore, “women also benefitted from the church’s sanctification of marriage and opposition to divorce” since divorced women were deemed “damaged goods”; some even “ma[de] a place in the community as a prostitute” (Willards 1997:71).

One irony is this: Many critics often claim that the New Testament writers borrowed ideas from Mithraism—a mystery religion from Persia—and other ancient religions like it.  For instance, Dan Brown says in The Da Vinci Code that Jesus can be identified with “the pre-Christian God Mithras—[who was] called the Son of God and the Light of the World” (p. 232). While making that unwarranted claim (Reinventing Jesus 2006), Brown never mentions that Mithraism’s “membership was restricted to men” (Latourette 1975:25). On the contrary, as Stark notes, “most Christians in the Roman Empire were women,” some of whom became deaconesses (Rom. 16:1), a mid-level leadership in the church. That may mean nothing to you and me, but the elevation of women to such a leadership position was unheard of among the many mystery religions at that time (Cybele, Isis, Ishtar, a.k.a., Venus, etc.). Truth be told, a key role of women in these religions was serving as temple prostitutes.  In The Da Vinci Code, the detective Sophie, when she was young, had rejected her beloved grandfather after witnessing him in orgies with the members of a secret society. When told of this, Harvard symbologist Langdon explained: “What you saw was not about sex, it was about spirituality.  The . . . ritual is not a perversion. It’s a deeply sacrosanct ceremony . . . For the early church, mankind’s use of sex to communicate directly with God posed a serious threat to the Catholic power base” (p. 309). Oh really? I have one question for Langdon: “If these mystery religions were so wonderful to women and the church was such an anti-women institution, why were the women so drawn to the church?”

So, please consider what is presented here and not be misled into thinking that the church and the Bible are against women.  The reality is that the powerful truth in Scripture set the social forces in motion to liberate women from societal restrictions placed on them, in time.  Too slow of a process? Yes, but that’s the fault of many males, who, being sinners and ignorant of Scripture, treated women badly, some more than others. Nevertheless, that’s not God’s fault because He gave us His Word and Spirit to turn our world into a safer place for women (“Your kingdom come”), but like everything else, we’ve failed God—who created and loves women. And for them Christ died. 

Prayer: Father, what a privilege that we’re called “God’s fellow workers” (2 Cor. 6:1), but we have failed so miserably in faithfully carrying out Your will on this earth, including making our world a safer place for women. We men need to repent!  Help us to change in our homes, churches, and workplaces. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 33

Tomorrow’s Blog: “With God Watch Out for a Very Unexpected Career”


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Cor. 14:34-35 (ESV):

“The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 35 If they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church.

1 Corinthians 11:5 (NASB):

“But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head . . .” (Note that these Corinthian women did this in the church).

Acts 18:24-26 (ESV):

Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John; 26 and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”

Questions to Consider

  1. When 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 11:5 are read side-by-side, what observations can you make?
  2. When Acts 18:24-26 and 1 Corinthians 11:5 are read side-by-side, what observations can you make?
  3. In light of these two observations, what logical conclusion can you draw?

Note

  1. Evidently, women were not completely silent in the Corinthian church since they prayed and prophesized publicly (1 Cor. 14:29).
  2. Whereas Paul tells the Corinthian wives that if they have questions, to “ask their own husbands at home,” Luke reports that Priscilla actually taught a man (not just any man but a biblical scholar).  Note that the verb “explain” in Greek is conjugated in the third person plural.
  3. It leads me to draw these conclusions: first, when Paul tells the women to be silent in the church, he does not mean a complete silence; second, it may be that Paul is addressing a local situation facing a particular church; third, men can learn the Bible from women—to put it different, women can teach men. The debatable point is whether this is a one-time exception or a prototypical foreshadow of more historical changes to come.

Evening Reflection

Before you turn in, let me share a really unpleasant thought: The devil is a deceiver who “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:4). Meaning what? One of his greatest weapons is “disinformation”—slightly twisting the truth to make it appear still “truthful” yet is a lie “to steal and kill and destroy” (Jn. 10:10a).  The enemy did that when, while tempting Jesus, he appeared to quote a Scripture (i.e., Ps. 91:9-12), “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written . . . (Matt. 4:5). He lied; the correct clause is, “If you make the Most High your dwelling” (Ps. 91:9a), not, “If you are the Son of God.” Evidently, the devil tried get Jesus to question His Sonship.

In light of that, what lies of the enemy have you accepted? Have you believed the lies of the enemy regarding the supposed bad treatment of women by the early church? Do you feel you aren’t worth much apart from having a shapely form? Is that why you focus so much on your body? That’s called conditional love and it does not come from God.

Spend a moment to really examine your thoughts and feelings.  Believe God’s truth. How about Romans 5:8 that says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”—and be set free from the disinformation of the enemy?

January 28, Monday

The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith.  Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.

Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.  I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.  

 

Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today

Male Headship at the Home (2): “When the Roles Are Reversed”

1 Kings 21:1-8 (ESV)

Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And after this Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house, and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.” But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him, for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food. 5 But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “Why is your spirit so vexed that you eat no food?” And he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money, or else, if it please you, I will give you another vineyard for it.’ And he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” And Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Arise and eat bread and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and she sent the letters to the elders and the leaders who lived with Naboth in his city. 9 And she wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people. 10 And set two worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.” 11 And the men of his city, the elders and the leaders who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. As it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, 12 they proclaimed a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. 13 And the two worthless men came in and sat opposite him. And the worthless men brought a charge against Naboth in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones. 14 Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.”15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, “Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money, for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” 16 And as soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

Ephesians 5:23a (ESV)

“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church . . .”

For some married couples their roles are reversed: the wife works and the husband stays at home with the kids. This arrangement is made so that children can have one parent at home while the other, the wife in this case who likely has the higher paying job, becomes the breadwinner.  This economic role-reversal in the home cannot be an easy transition for most couples. For the man who had been the main breadwinner, his self-esteem will be tested, now that he is economically dependent on his wife. For the wife, her frustration will rise when she still must do the brunt of housework. Even in the best of situations, this role reversal can affect how couples fundamentally see each other in such a manner that it may become female headship in the home. Some women will take umbrage at this, but it is to no one’s advantage if the husband becomes, in effect, a passive follower.

Consider the relationship between King Ahab and his wife Jezebel from Sidon who worshiped Baal and Asherah. Being an ambitious person, Jezebel sought to replace the religion of Israel with hers. Not only did she convince Ahab to worship her idols, she “was killing off the LORD’s prophets” (1 Ki. 18:4a) while allowing 850 false prophets to “eat at Jezebel’s table” (18:29b).  All these prophets, however, got killed by the people before Ahab’s eyes after prophet Elijah spectacularly defeated them on Mount Carmel (v.40). Subsequently, Ahab “rode and went to” (18:45) find his wife and then “told Jezebel all that Elijah had done” (19:1). And it is Jezebel who decided to kill Elijah, saying, “by this time tomorrow,” that he will die (v.2). Knowing that she wasn’t joking, “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life” (v.3 NIV).  Ahab, in the meantime, remained passive, seemingly watching from the sidelines.

This pattern continues in today’s text.  Jezebel, seeing that her husband was “vexed and sullen” (and not eating), saw another opportunity to lead her husband. Upon realizing the problem (Naboth not selling his vineyard to Ahab), Jezebel, without any input from Ahab, devised a brilliantly evil plan to fulfill her husband’s wish. Ahab, again, remained passive, for he was unaware of what was going on. Only when Jezebel informed him of the successful completion of her plan did Ahab “arise [to] take possession of the vineyard of Naboth” (21:15).

What happened? Ahab switched roles with Jezebel, making her the head of their relationship by letting his capable wife to initiate, develop and implement plans with little or no input from him. Over time, Jezebel became the great enabler of her husband’s passivity. Some men don’t seem to mind this; Ahab certainly didn’t. Why not? A new vineyard (golf and video games) waits for him. Understandably, most women will complain at this juncture, even Jezebel who chided her pouting husband, “Is this how you act as the king over Israel?” (2 Ki. 21:7a NIV). Still, Jezebel wouldn’t relinquish the leadership, perhaps because she continued to feel the need to show everyone how capable she was without any help from a man. So, Jezebel, as a mirror image of a modern feminist, went to work after putting her man-child husband in the crib.

Who stays at home for the kids is a family decision. It’s a blessing that a family can sustain its lifestyle (a little lower perhaps) with just one income. But for this arrangement to result in a happy home, the couple needs to openly and respectfully share their feelings (slights and frustrations), constantly adjust, and be mindful of their goal (doing what’s best for the kids). But one change that shouldn’t happen is for the wife—regardless of whether she works or not—to lead while the husband passively follows her.  In such a situation, most wives will find it difficult to “respect [their] husband” (Eph. 5:33b). As for men, work hard to earn the respect of your wives; even if you work, share the housework. If you are a house dad, be competent in housework and childrearing, and don’t fail to lead amid many dialogues with your wife.  

Prayer: [Wife] Lord, please help the man in my life to be the leader he is called to be. Love him, train him; encourage him. [Men] Lord, please help me to be the leader that I am called to be. Encourage me; train me; remind me how much You love me. [Together] God, help us. Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 32

Tomorrow’s Blog: “‘The Bible Approves the Oppression of Women’: Is That Right?”


Lunch Break Study

Read Job 2:9-10:

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Questions to Consider

  1. Put into a perspective what Job’s wife and Jezebel, respectively, did in relation to their husbands’ problems?  What’s going on?
  2. Put into a perspective how Job and Ahab, respectively, responded to what their wives said to them?
  3. What should Job’s wife and Jezebel have said or done for their troubled husbands?

Note

  1. Jezebel should be commended for reading the body language of her husband and realizing that something was wrong. Job’s wife just saw her husband’s body and saw that something was very wrong.  And they had every right to offer their counsels and opinions to their husbands. The problem is simply that these wives gave very bad counsels to their men. Pointing that out to wives and women is not being anti-woman or against Me Too movement.
  2. As the spiritual head of the family, Job did well by shunning his wife’s unwise counsel; the same cannot be said about Ahab, an immature husband, who switched roles with his wife, making her the head of the family by passively watching her evil advice put into operation.
  3. Job’s wife should have said something like this: “I don’t understand what’s going on but let’s trust in the goodness of God. I am right here with you.” Jezebel should have said to Ahab, “Honey, you are the king—serve the people instead of taking things from them.”

Evening Reflection

Scripture for tonight is Psalms 127:1-2:

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”

Whenever I had to travel for a lengthy period during the time when Mexico got really dangerous after the 2006 election, I used to worry a lot since my wife was home alone with our three children. So, I would pray, “Lord, since I am not there, please protect them.”  Then, I heard the Lord whispering into my heart, “So, do you think you are the one protecting your family when you are at home?” Of course not, for it is the Lord who watches over us (whether dad or mom works or both work) every second. What a comforting thought! He will watch over you while you sleep as well.  Offer up a praise of thanksgiving before calling it a night.