April 10, Wednesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“No Other gods Before Me”

Exodus 20:1-6

1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands[b] of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Recently, a pastor and I were discussing the family dynamics of Chinese households in China. Because many families only have one child, these children are doted upon, not only by parents, but also grandparents. Parents spend most of their time and energy working to financially provide for their children. Grandparents, who are retired, spend much of their time taking their grandchildren to and from extra-curricular activities.

While this may seem like an ideal situation, this puts tremendous pressure on these children. Why? Parents and grandparents pour all of their time and resources into their children, so that their children may grow up to become successful, and, in return, take care of them. Thus, a big struggle for parents in Chinese churches is that they begin to idolize their children.

In this passage, after the Israelites have encamped next to Mount Sinai, Moses meets with the Lord. The Lord then directs him to tell the Israelites that if they keep the covenant, then, they would become the most treasured possession among all peoples.  Once the Israelites agree to follow the Lord, the Lord commands them to consecrate themselves because He is going to speak to Moses for the Israelites to hear. Quickly He imparts the Ten Commandments for the Israelites to obey, the first of which is, “You shall have no other gods before me” (v. 3).

Upon hearing the phrase, “Other gods,” we often think of physical idols found in temples. While these are certainly other gods, many of us are not tempted to bow down before them. Yet, many of us still struggle with this first commandment.  How so? The gods with which we struggle in the 21st century are not made of stone, gold, or silver; rather, these so-called gods are seemingly good things discreetly integrated into our daily lives. Like the example about Chinese families, our gods are anything that we think can save or satisfy us apart from God. These gods can come in the form of our children, social media, finances, degrees, etc. The scary thing is that we do not even realize these things have become our gods.

God puts this verse as the first commandment because He wants to make it very clear—not that He is an egocentric God—that our lives must be God-centered. Our God is the only person who can truly save and satisfy us; turning to anything else will only hurt us in the end.

This morning, invite the Holy Spirit into your heart to make you aware of anything that might be a god in your life. Is there anything in your life that you have become dependent or has become your mode of satisfaction? If there is, ask the Lord for forgiveness and to help you become more God-centered.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You for saving us through your son, Jesus Christ. Lord, You call us to live God-centered lives because only You can truly save and satisfy us. You do not want us to live under the lie that these other gods can do the same. If there is anything in my life that has taken your place, please help me turn back to You. In your name I pray, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Romans 8


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 6:19-24: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy,[c] your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eyes are unhealthy,[d] your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness! 24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Questions to consider

  1. Why does Jesus teach us not to store up treasures here on earth?
  2. What does the metaphor in verses 22-23 mean?
  3. Why is it impossible to serve two masters?

Notes

  1. Jesus teaches us not to store up treasures here on earth because these earthly treasures are temporary and will decay. Even in the digital world, cyberspace is not safe from “viruses,” power outages, and the disappearance of backups.
  2. In this passage, the eyes represent the heart. Therefore, if the heart is healthy, then the whole body would be full of light. However, if the heart is unhealthy, then the whole body would be full of darkness.
  3. It is impossible to serve two masters because our heart’s affection cannot be divided. Our hearts will naturally love one and reject the other. Therefore, we must give our Lord an undivided heart.

Evening Reflection

This morning, we invited the Holy Spirit to help us become aware of some idols in your life. This evening, take some time to reflect why these “things or persons” have become idols? What are some ways that you can protect your heart?

April 9, Tuesday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Consecrate Yourselves”

Exodus 19:9-15

The Lord said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, so that the people will hear me speaking with you and will always put their trust in you.” Then Moses told the Lord what the people had said. 10 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow. Have them wash their clothes 11 and be ready by the third day, because on that day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people. 12 Put limits for the people around the mountain and tell them, ‘Be careful that you do not approach the mountain or touch the foot of it. Whoever touches the mountain is to be put to death. 13 They are to be stoned or shot with arrows; not a hand is to be laid on them. No person or animal shall be permitted to live.’ Only when the ram’s horn sounds a long blast may they approach the mountain.” 14 After Moses had gone down the mountain to the people, he consecrated them, and they washed their clothes. 15 Then he said to the people, “Prepare yourselves for the third day. Abstain from sexual relations.”

Evidently, several professional athletes partake in elaborate pre-game rituals. For example, Rafael Nadal, the famed Spanish tennis-player, first walks onto the tennis court with just one racket in his hand. After the coin toss to decide who serves first, Rafael always sprints back to the base-line. During change-overs, he eats an energy gel in the exact same way each time, and he drinks his water and recovery drinks in a certain order, placing them in the exact same position and location each time. Nadal is not the only one with rituals; other athletes such as Kobe Bryant, Wayne Gretzky, and Cristiano Ronaldo all partake in their own pre-game rituals.

To an ordinary person, these rituals may seem superstitious and quirky. However, rituals are tools to help professional athletes to focus on preparing for the game by blocking out unnecessary distractions.

In this passage, the Lord tells Moses that, on the third day He will appear before the Israelites as a thick cloud, so that they may hear the Lord speak to Moses. I can imagine the Israelite camp feeling both nervous and excited. At this point, they had only received messages from the Lord through Moses, but now they were going to have the privilege of audibly hearing the voice of God.

Before appearing to them, the Lord commands the Israelites to consecrate themselves by washing their clothes (v.10), not touching the mountain (v. 12), and abstaining from sexual intercourse (v. 15).

Why does the Lord ask them to consecrate themselves?  First, God is Holy and requiring the Israelites to consecrate themselves reveals that He is separate from them. In order for them to be in His presence, they must cleanse themselves of all sin through these rituals. Second, like the athletes mentioned above, God wanted them to be not only spiritually prepared, but also mentally prepared. The physical act of washing themselves, abstaining from women, and not touching the mountain reminds them that they are going to be in the presence of the creator of the universe.

Many Christians, especially me, have forgotten the importance of consecration. There is a lack of preparation when it comes to meeting with the creator of the universe on Sundays. Some of us treat our Sunday mornings like any other day—often scrambling to just make it on time. Yet, this passage reminds us of the importance of having rituals to help us focus on Sunday worship.

While I am not advocating for us to be like the Israelites, I am encouraging us to find certain activities that may prepare us for our meeting with the Lord. It may be sleeping earlier on Saturdays, so that we may wake up earlier for service. It may be playing a worship CD or Bible mp3 on the way to church. Or, as a family, pray together in the car. Whatever it may be, these actives will help shift our focus from all the distractions around us unto the Lord.

This morning, what are some ways that you may better prepare yourself for Sunday worship? After you have thought of certain ways, make a commitment to the Lord that you will better prepare yourself this year. Remember, it is a great privilege to be in the presence of God, and we must give Him our best.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank You that you are a God who has made a way for us to enter into your presence. Help me not to take this privilege lightly. If there are adjustments that I need to make to better prepare my heart, please remind me. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Romans 7


Lunch Break Study

Read Joshua 3:1-17: Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to the Jordan, where they camped before crossing over. 2 After three days the officers went throughout the camp, 3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. 4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits[a] between you and the ark; do not go near it.” 5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” 6 Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them. 7 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.’”9 Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” 14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.

Questions to consider

  1. Why did Joshua tell the Israelites to consecrate themselves?
  2. Through parting the Jordan River, what was God revealing to the Israelites about Joshua?
  3. How was the Lord going to guide Israel through the Promised Land?

Notes

  1. Joshua told the Israelites to consecrate themselves because the Lord was going to do amazing things among them, namely, parting the Jordan River. (v. 5 & 14-17)
  2. Through parting the Jordan River, the Lord wanted to reveal to the Israelites that Joshua was the chosen leader after Moses. Just as God parted the Red Sea during Moses’ time, God was going to part the Jordan River during Joshua’s time. (v. 7)
  3. The Lord gives Joshua strict commands that when the Ark of the Covenant begins to move, all of Israel must “move out from their positions and follow it.” The Promised Land was a new territory, and the Israelites had no idea which direction to go. Therefore, the Lord commanded the Israelites to follow the Ark of the Covenant.

Evening Reflection

Consecration is important because it prepares our heart, spirit, and mind to meet with the Lord. He is the creator of the universe, and He deserves our best. What are some reasons why you forget to prepare yourself before meeting the Lord? Take a moment to meditate on this question.

April 8, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals from April 8-14 are provided by Emerson Lin.  Emerson and his wife Annie are serving as AMI missionaries in E. Asia.  This past January they became brand new parents! Congratulations.

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Accepting the Invitation”

Exodus 19:1-6

On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 They set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, and they encamped in the wilderness. There, Israel encamped before the mountain, 3 while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

Do you remember the feeling of receiving an invitation to a friend’s birthday party? I remember always feeling really excited because I anticipated the games, the cake, and the goody bags containing Pokemon cards. Looking back, I think I was really excited because out of some thirty students in the class, I was chosen to attend—and that made me feel special.

In this passage, the Israelites had just been rescued from the hands of the Egyptians. The Israelites were trapped between the Egyptians who chased them and the Red Sea. While all seemed lost for the Israelites, the Lord parted the Red Sea for them to cross. But, the Lord kept the Egyptians from crossing themselves; instead, they all drowned.

From the Red Sea, the Israelites entered the wilderness of Sinai. And after encamping near Mount Sinai, Moses climbed up the mountain where the Lord met him.  It is here when God made a covenant with the Israelites. The stipulation of the covenant was that if the Israelites obey the Lord’s commandments, then they would be called God’s most treasured possession, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.

What was the purpose of this covenant? Recall that in Genesis 12 God had made a covenant with Abraham concerning His descendants. He said, “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (12:1-3). The Lord was inviting the Israelites to fulfill their purpose and, as Abraham’s descendants, to become a blessing to other nations. Through the Israelites, the Lord wanted to restore fallen humanity.

Like the Israelites, we have the privilege of being God’s treasured possession through His son, Jesus. However, God has set us apart, not only to enjoy His blessings, but so that we can become the channel of God’s blessings to the people around us.

Often, we get lost in the routines of work, family, and friends, and forget what God is doing in these spheres. Thus, we must remember that God is always working in every aspect of our lives, and there is a reason why we are in our situations. Through you, God’s treasured possession, God is inviting you to be part of His work of restoring humanity! Will you accept His invitation?

This morning, take a few minutes to think about your workplace, family, friend circle, and invite the Holy Spirit to help you become aware of what God is doing in these areas.

Bible Reading for Today: Romans 6


Lunch Break Study

Read John 5:1-19: Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4] 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” 7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” 8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”11 But he replied, “The man who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’ ”12 So they asked him, “Who is this fellow who told you to pick it up and walk?”13 The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there. 14 Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jewish leaders that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. 19 Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

Questions to consider

  1. How long has the man been an invalid? From his point of view, why can’t he get well?
  2. Why did the Jewish leaders persecute the invalid man and Jesus?
  3. When does the Son do the Father’s work?

Notes

  1. The man has been an invalid for 38 years. He cannot get well because no one is willing to carry him into the water.
  2. The Jewish leaders persecuted the invalid and Jesus because they were doing work on the Sabbath: the invalid picked up his mat and Jesus healed the invalid.
  3. The Son can only do the Father’s work when He sees His Father working. Therefore, the Son must wait, see, and recognize when the Father is moving.

Evening Reflection

This morning, we invited the Holy Spirit to help us become aware of the what God is doing in different spheres of our lives. This evening, ask the Lord to give you wisdom in how to join Him. It is a privilege to be invited to be part of what God is doing around us.

April 7, Sunday

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“You Gotta Want It”

2 Kings 2:9-14

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. 10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.” 11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two. 13 Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.

“Carpe diem.  Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary”:  In Dead Poets Society, John Keating (played by Robin Williams) used these words to inspire a group of young English students to aspire to live lives of significance.  He reminded them that in just a few short years, they would be dead and fertilizing the flowers of the field.

Much of our millennial generation would agree with Keating – that life is short and therefore should be lived to its fullest.  How this plays out, however, varies greatly by individual. Some throw themselves into making the next hot app, dreaming of millions (if not billions) as they program away into the night.  Others look for meaning in experiences, whether through travel or thrills or drugs.  Still for others, romantic love is the answer. Whatever the path, meaning is the goal.

Elisha was no slouch himself.  When his master Elijah was about to be taken up to heaven, he asked for a “double portion of [his] spirit.”  In other words, he wanted everything that Elijah had – the prophetic ministry, the power and the miracles. He wanted to be great in the kingdom of God.  The fact that this was “a difficult thing” did not discourage him. Someone once said that if something isn’t difficult to do, then it probably isn’t worth doing.  Elijah assented to his request, but not without condition – Elisha would have to witness Elijah’s ascension in order to receive such power. In other words, such power must be actively appropriated, not passively received.

In Acts 1:6-11, we witness a strikingly similar event.  Jesus is taken up into heaven before the disciples’ eyes, and a few days later on the day of Pentecost, the disciples are filled with incredible power (as evidenced in Peter’s sermon as well as the ensuing miracles throughout the book of Acts).  What cannot be missed, however, is what took place between these events— “They all joined together constantly in prayer…” The power of the Holy Spirit did not come upon casual observers or slack disciples – it came upon a people actively seeking the promise of the Father through prayer.

God wants us to live lives that count, and He provides the means to do so – the power of His Spirit.  We can be great in the kingdom of God.  But we have to go after it. What kind of life do you want to live?  There is nothing stopping you from living it, no matter what your life circumstances.  God’s grace is sufficient for you. But you have to take hold of it through radical, believing, faith-filled prayer.  Carpe diem!

Prayer: God, I don’t want to live a lukewarm, defeated, mediocre Christian life.  I want to live a radical, power-filled, miracle-witnessing, sin-overcoming life!  Forgive me if I’ve settled for anything less. Give me the faith to believe that no matter how difficult, it can be achieved through Your Spirit.  Give me a heart to pray. Give me a passion to pursue. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Romans 5

April 6, Saturday

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“There is No Substitute for God”

2 Kings 1:1-4:

After Ahab’s death, Moab rebelled against Israel. Now Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria and injured himself. So he sent messengers, saying to them, “Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.” But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Go up and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?’ Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!’” So Elijah went.

It’s obvious that in this passage God is upset at King Ahaziah because he didn’t inquire of Him as to how his illness would turn out.  What is interesting, however, is the king’s reaction to the news from his messengers regarding the “stranger” that they had met on the road.  Through nothing more than a description of his outfit, Ahaziah knew that it was the prophet Elijah (v.8).  What we can see from this is that Ahaziah was very much aware that there was a prophet of the Lord in his land, yet he had no interest in inquiring of the Lord through him.  For this, he was condemned to die from his wounds.

We take encouragement from this passage that we serve a God who wants us to inquire of Him.  Imagine that!—being invited to ask for wisdom and knowledge from the source of all wisdom and knowledge!  Our struggle, however, is that too often we don’t take God up on His generous offer.  We’ve replaced God with Google or friends or medical professionals.  Not that any of these things are wrong—these things can all be a blessing—but the problem comes when these things effectively replace God in our lives.  Inquiring of God through prayer is considered impractical.  Like Ahaziah, we know that He’s there and He’s real, but in times of trouble, we go elsewhere for answers.  That displeases the Lord.  Let’s be smart and seek God at all times.

Prayer: What do you need to ask God about today?  James reminds us that, “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” (1:5).  Spend time inquiring of the Lord.

Bible Reading for Today: Romans 3-4

April 5, Friday

Devotional Thought for Today

“‘No One Tells Me What to Do’—Oh, Be Quiet”

Exodus 18:24-27

So Moses listened to the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he had said.25 Moses chose able men out of all Israel and made them heads over the people, chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 26 And they judged the people at all times. Any hard case they brought to Moses, but any small matter they decided themselves. 27 Then Moses let his father-in-law depart, and he went away to his own country.

At this point Moses had a decision to make: Listen to his father-in-law’s advice (not always easy, as many a married man will attest) or keep doing what he was doing. But why should he listen to Jethro? After all, Moses was the one who just led the Israelites out of slavery, defying and defeating the world’s greatest superpower at the time! And it was Moses who performed miracle after miracle, wonders the likes of which the world had never seen. It may have been very tempting for him to assume that he was the one God uses, therefore he needs to do everything.

Maybe it was Moses’ great humility that saved him at this point. After all, he was “more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth” (Numbers 12:3). A younger, prouder man might have balked at advice from “mere mortals,” no less from one’s own father-in-law! Moses, however, was willing to receive such advice. Proverbs 12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”

How willing are you to listen to advice? Are there things going on in your life, whether difficult decisions or relationship issues or confusion about the future? Do you seek counsel from others? Or do you feel like you need to figure everything out on your own? Do you have a difficult time asking others for help or appearing “weak” by admitting you don’t know what to do? Let us consider the example of Moses, the man who the Scriptures declare “was faithful in all God’s house as a servant” (Hebrews 3:5), and learn from the wisdom of his humility.

Prayer: Lord, grant me a humble heart. Forgive me of my pride, self-reliance, and insecurity. Help me to be willing to be weak, vulnerable, or uncertain, and to be willing to reveal such things before others. Encourage me with the power of community and the wisdom of many counselors, that I may receive conviction to walk more and more with others by my side. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Romans 2


Lunch Break Study

Read Joshua 7:1-6: But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel. Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, “Go up and spy out the region.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. When they returned to Joshua, they said, “Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there.” So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.

Questions to Consider

  1. How formidable was the city of Ai?
  2. Why did the Israelites lose the battle?
  3. What effect did Achan’s sin have on the rest of the people? What does this tell you about the nature and impact of sin?

Notes

  1. Ai was puny, especially compared to Israel’s army.
  2. The Israelites lost because Achan broke covenant with God. God had been fighting for Israel and now His favor was removed.
  3. Even though Achan did not involve other Israelites in his sin, nevertheless the entire nation was affected. The effects of sin go beyond what the eye can see and can affect the entire community.

Evening Reflection

What’s something in your life that you know isn’t right and need to begin taking more seriously? What’s one step, no matter how small, that you can take to begin addressing it?

April 4, Thursday

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“No, You Aren’t Sitting This One Out”

Exodus 18:13-23

The next day Moses sat to judge the people, and the people stood around Moses from morning till evening. 14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand around you from morning till evening?”15 And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God; 16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.”17 Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. 19 Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, 20 and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do.21 Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. 22 And let them judge the people at all times. Every great matter they shall bring to you, but any small matter they shall decide themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. 23 If you do this, God will direct you, you will be able to endure, and all this people also will go to their place in peace.”

In an exercise in management and organizational behavior worthy of Harvard Business Review, Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, saves his son-in-law from certain burnout. Not to mention, he also saves the Israelites from endless frustration, as there was no way one man could have addressed their myriad problems. Instituting a pyramid org chart, Jethro helps to “filter and funnel” Israel’s problems so that only the most difficult cases were placed before Moses. What’s the takeaway from this ancient episode for us? Simply this: We are all meant to partake in ministry.

It is no coincidence that this event takes place shortly after deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Come New Testament, we know that Egypt represented not physical bondage, but bondage to sin, and that Jesus was the one like Moses who would deliver His brothers from spiritual slavery. However, once He does so, He immediately turns His attention to getting us in the game:

Ephesians 4:10-12: He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ

There will always be some in Christian leadership especially well-suited to tackling the “hard problem” – the elders, those with the gift of the word of wisdom, etc. – but this doesn’t mean that everyone else sits out while they do the “real ministry.” Christ has given us all gifts and abilities with which we can make a difference in the world for the kingdom of God. If we stick with the old 80/20 rule – that 80% of the work in the church is done by 20% of the people (or, worse yet, 90/10!), we will inevitably find burnt out leaders and a congregation, not to mention world, that’s not being ministered to. Whether as an influencer of “ten” or a “thousand,” there is a place of ministry for you alongside the true Moses, Jesus our Lord.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for delivering me from the bondage of sin. I acknowledge that You saved me, not so that I could sit on the sidelines, but so that I could serve others with the gifts and abilities that You have given me. May Your Spirit fill me with faith, boldness, and the security of knowing that I am a beloved child of God, so that I may walk in your will and be used to be a blessing to others. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Romans 1


Lunch Break Study

Read Mark 10:17-22: And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Questions to Consider

  1. If the rich young man was so good at keeping commandments, why didn’t he think that he was worthy of eternal life?
  2. Does Jesus’ command to the young man mean that we also need to give away everything we have? How does this apply to us?
  3. What was Jesus’ attitude towards the young man when He commanded him to sell everything? How should this encourage us?

Notes

  1. There was another god in his life- money- and he could feel it weighing on his soul.
  2. Whatever it is that we are not willing to give away is what Jesus would have us give away.
  3. He loved him. Whatever it is that God is asking you to surrender, you can do so in faith because you know that His motivation towards you is love.

Evening Reflection

Take a moment to reflect upon your day. What were the moments of tension or conflict that you experienced in your heart? Do you notice a pattern that might reveal something that has mastery over your heart?