July 29, Friday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Cami King, now a friend of AMI, was first posted on October 16, 2015.  Cami served faithfully as a staff at several AMI churches in the past.  

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Praying for Our Nation”

Ezra 6:1-6

So Darius the king issued orders, and they searched in the archives of the treasury which were deposited there in Babylon. 2 A scroll was found in the citadel of Ecbatana which is in the province of Media, and it was inscribed as follows: “Memorandum: 3 In the first year of his reign, King Cyrus gave orders concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: ‘Let the temple be rebuilt as a place where sacrifices are offered. Let its foundations be set in place. Its height is to be ninety feet and its width ninety feet, 4 with three layers of large stones and one layer of timber. The expense is to be subsidized by the royal treasury. 5 Furthermore let the gold and silver vessels of the temple of God, which Nebuchadnezzar brought from the temple in Jerusalem and carried to Babylon, be returned and brought to their proper place in the temple in Jerusalem. Let them be deposited in the temple of God.’ 6 “Now Tattenai governor of Trans-Euphrates, Shethar Bozenai, and their colleagues, the officials of Trans-Euphrates – all of you stay faraway from there! 7 Leave the work on this temple of God alone. Let the governor of the Jews and the elders of the Jews rebuild this temple of God in its proper place.

“God shapes the world by prayer. The more praying there is in the world the better the world will be, the mightier the forces against evil…” (E.M. Bounds)

When was the last time you prayed for your nation?  More specifically, for the leaders of your nation? We all know the importance of prayer, but how often do we extend that conviction to praying for the people who hold the most power and influence in the world? 

Today’s passage isn’t one about prayer. But it is one that reminds us how God can use the rulers over us to accomplish His good purposes. We know that every authority is somehow established by God (see Romans 13:1). Yesterday we saw King Nebuchadnezzar (Babylonian empire) was used by God to chasten His people. In today’s passage we see King Darius used by God to aid His people. Simply put: God can use those in power to His own ends and purposes (oftentimes without them even knowing it!).  

When Israel was questioned regarding their attempts to rebuild the temple, the king ultimately held the power to support or thwart their mission. King Darius was a man of integrity, and because there was documentation from a previous king giving permission for the building of the temple, Darius supported their work. A lesser king may have made a different choice. God used King Darius (and the previous king as well) as instruments for His good purposes regarding the building of His temple. 

As believers, we have the burden to pray for the world around us. We are those called to stand in the gap and call upon the name of the Lord for the salvation of humanity and the redemption of the world. When we pray for our leaders – that they be people of integrity, courage, compassion, with strong morals, God-honoring convictions, and the like – we serve our nation in a powerful way. And this has nothing to do with choosing political sides. Regardless of who is in power, we can pray that God uses them for His good purposes and ultimately for His glory. 

Prayer: Sovereign Lord, thank You for the rulers and authorities You’ve established in my nation. Thank You for the ways You intend to work through them to accomplish Your good purposes. Stir in my heart a burden for my community, my nation, and the world. Teach me to pray for those in power to be used as instruments in Your hands for the blessing to the people under their authority and to the glory of Your name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 13


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Timothy 2:1-5: First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why does Paul begin his instructions on prayer with “First of all…”?
  2. How (or for whom) does Paul instruct us to pray? What names and faces come to mind as you reflect on Paul’s words?
  3. Why does Paul say it’s important that we pray in these ways? 


Notes

  1. Paul is not merely saying that prayer should be the very first thing we do whenever we gather together (although that is not a bad practice). What he is stressing is that prayer is of chief importance in the life of the believer. “The ministry of prayer is the most important service that the Church of Christ can engage in… It is the most dynamic work which God has entrusted to His saints, but it is also the most neglected ministry open to the believer.” (D. Edmond Hiebert)
  2. (1) For all people – we should not only pray for those around us, but for those around the world; (2) kings and all in high positions – as we learned this morning, it is important for us to pray for those in positions of power. 
  3. This kind of prayer is pleasing to God because His desire is that all be saved and to know His truth. As evangelicals, we know that God wants people to be saved and that we play a part in that. But the first step in our role is to pray for all people (then to speak and to act as the Holy Spirit leads – both prayer and action are necessary).  

Evening Reflection

Spend some time praying for your community (local), your country (national), and the world (global). Pray for those in positions of authority, that God would use them for His good purposes. Pray for the Christians in these areas, that they would be light in darkness.  Pray for those who have not yet come to know God, and that He would continue to pursue them and draw them unto Himself. Ask God to lead you as you pray for specific topics and people groups and even names through His Holy Spirit. End in thanksgiving for all God will do through your prayers. 

July 28, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on June 16, 2016, is provided by Pastor Shan Gian who leads Remnant Westside Church in Manhattan.  Shan is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Too Much Self-Reliance”

Galatians 6:1

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 

As a self-reliant person, I like to do work on my own, figure out different problems on my own, and work through various issues on my own.  I’m sure many of you are pretty similar to me in this.  Self-reliance is, to an extent, a good thing, for none of us wants to be known as needy or dependent—and there are plenty of things in life that we should work through on our own.  So when it comes to our spiritual lives, our tendency is to work out things with God on our own.

But this is not what God has in mind for us.  In this passage, Paul tells us to, “Bear one another’s burdens.”  We might think that bearing one another’s burdens is just being there for one another or supporting a friend through a hard time.  But in the original language, this word for “bear” is the same word that is used when Jesus was “bearing his own cross” (John 19:17).  Bearing one another’s burdens isn’t just encouraging someone with a few nice words—but it is delving deep into someone’s life and helping through their burdens of sin and shame.  We’re not just called to do this for others, but we ourselves have burdens that we cannot bear on our own—meaning, we need to invite others to help restore us and carry the burdens and struggles we have.

Because we are so inclined to be self-reliant, we try to carry burdens that are meant to be carried with the community.  Whether they’re sins of lust, anger, or past hurts and shames that we hold onto in our hearts, we don’t need to bear these heavy burdens on our own, as they can crush our spirits and hinder our walks with God.  The book of Galatians teaches us about freedom in Christ, and one important way that we can be free in Christ is to give up our self-reliance and bring our burdens for one another to bear.

Bible Reading for Today:  1 Samuel 12

Lunch Bible Study

Read Matthew 23:1-4: Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.4 They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.

Questions to Consider

  1. What were the scribes and Pharisees doing right?
  2. What were the scribes and Pharisees doing wrong?    
  3. Who in your life has been there to help you with your heavy burdens?  Are there people whose burdens you are helping to bear right now? 

Notes

  1. For all of the faults that Jesus points out regarding scribes and Pharisees, He does tell us His audience to do and observe what they were teaching and preaching.  It seems that in this passage, at least, Jesus was not taking issue with their teachings.
  2. In this passage, Jesus is more concerned about how the scribes and Pharisees would teach and preach but not even lift a finger to help the people.  The teachings of the scribes and Pharisees were burdens, because they were standards of holiness and righteousness that the people were to follow, but these were too difficult to follow.  These leaders only preached at the people without actually walking alongside them to help them walk in them.  On the other hand, though Jesus gave an impossible standard to follow, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48), He did much more than lift a finger—He sacrificed His whole life to help us bear that burden.
  3. Personal reflection question.

Evening Reflection

What burdens (yours or others’) do you feel like you were bearing today?  Have you found freedom in these burdens?  Take some time to surrender your burdens to Christ, but also consider reaching out to a friend to help bear your burdens.

July 27, Wednesday

 REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on June 30, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“A Lesson from Freddie Mercury’s Life”

1 King 11:14-22

And the Lord raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite. He was of the royal house in Edom. 15 For when David was in Edom, and Joab the commander of the army went up to bury the slain, he struck down every male in Edom 16 (for Joab and all Israel remained there six months, until he had cut off every male in Edom). 17 But Hadad fled to Egypt, together with certain Edomites of his father’s servants, Hadad still being a little child. 18 They set out from Midian and came to Paran and took men with them from Paran and came to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave him a house and assigned him an allowance of food and gave him land. 19 And Hadad found great favor in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him in marriage the sister of his own wife, the sister of Tahpenes the queen. 20 And the sister of Tahpenes bore him Genubath his son, whom Tahpenes weaned in Pharaoh’s house. And Genubath was in Pharaoh’s house among the sons of Pharaoh. 21 But when Hadad heard in Egypt that David slept with his fathers and that Joab the commander of the army was dead, Hadad said to Pharaoh, “Let me depart, that I may go to my own country.” 22 But Pharaoh said to him, “What have you lacked with me that you are now seeking to go to your own country?” And he said to him, “Only let me depart.” 

Freddie Mercury, from the famous rock group Queen, produced some legendary songs such as, Bohemian Rhapsody” and We Are the Champions” before succumbing to AIDS at 45. His most thoughtful song, however, was, “There Must Be More to Life Than This.”  While decrying about the brokenness of the world caused by hate, Mercury was haunted by death: “What is life, in the end we all must die.  There must be more to life than this.”  The fact that this was said by someone who reached the pinnacle of success and all that it entails—money, power and fame—is why it shouldn’t easily be dismissed. 

In today’s reading, we meet a child who, after seeing every member of his family killed, escaped to a foreign land.  But beating all odds, Hadad the Edomite arose to the pinnacle of success, much like Freddie Mercury—while the latter sang for Queen, Hadad married into the family of the Queen of Egypt.  Subsequently, Hadad had access to unprecedented privileges and wealth that no foreigner had likely enjoyed before or since. Who but Hadad’s son could have roamed the palace with the sons of Pharaoh?  The Pharaoh, therefore, was puzzled when Hadad asked his permission to leave all that behind in order to return to his war ravaged homeland, asking, What have you lacked with me?  To the bedazzled Pharaoh to whom life was about power, money and luxury, Hadad responded, “Do let me go”; that is, “There must be more to life than this.”  

Sadly, both Hadad and Mercury looked to wrong places to find what they were searching for.  Hadad tried to find it in taking back his nation from the Israelites—a noble cause—not realizing that the city of man, as opposed to “the city . . . whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10 NKJ), does not last.  And judging from the fact that Mercury’s funeral service was conducted by a Zoroastrian priest, it is likely that the one who sang about the absurdity of life, never got to entrust his life to the One who overcame death: Jesus Christ.  

If you, too, are crushed by the prospect of death, meet Jesus Christ who is able to “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Heb. 2:14-5).   Believe on him and receive an invitation to the city of God.  Stop building your own city (read career, family, or even ministry) wherein God is not at the center.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I truly thank You for resolving one conflict that no human can find the cure for: death.  No words can capture our appreciation for the stunning manner in which You allowed your own Son to die in our place so that we can have everlasting life by believing in Jesus Christ.  Thank You!  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 11


Lunch Break Study 

Read Mark 8:34-8: And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? 37 For what can a man give in return for his soul? 38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Luke 12:16-20: And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Question to Consider

1. What does it mean to “gain the whole world” while forfeiting one’s soul?

2. What are some false beliefs that lead us to neglect the matters of our soul?

3. What is the true meaning of life?  How can we ascertain it?  

Notes

1. It always means this: we are so caught up with getting ahead, so preoccupied with urgent matters, and focused on getting more that we become negligent in preparing ourselves to meet our Maker at death.  Some never get to know God, while those who do know Him don’t do hardly anything to serve His cause.

2. The parable of the rich fool held on to three false beliefs: first, I’ll die when I’m ready; second, I can take my wealth with me when I die; third, everything I own exists to make my life comfortable.

3. The true meaning of life derives from knowing God through Jesus Christ and then to serve Him with total commitment and being generous towards Him.


Evening Reflection

Based on what you did and thought throughout today, would you say that you were living your life from the standpoint of meeting God one day or did you live to build a bigger “barn”?  What are some adjustments that you need to make to ensure that the life that you live on earth is truly a life well- lived?  Reflect.  Pray. 

July 26, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on July 5, 2016, is provided by Pastor Barry Kang, who heads Symphony Church in Boston.  Barry is a graduate of Stanford University (B.S.), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Gordon Conwell Seminary (D.Min.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“How Do You Know How You’re Doing in Christ?”

Colossians 3:11

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 

Right after commanding his readers to put to death that which is earthly, i.e. the old self and its practices (e.g. sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscene talk and lies), Paul follows up with verse 11 (see above).  We may wonder how the two ideas are connected.

Well, how do you know how you’re doing in Christ?  One trap that we fall into is to compare ourselves with others.  The Christians in Colossae seemed to have been holding onto tribal markers, such as ethnicity, eating practices and circumcision.  As long as they were doing the “right things” and avoiding the “wrong things”, they thought they were spiritual.   They were focused on outward markers and appearances rather than their heart condition. 

Paul reminds the Christian in Colossae (and us as well) that we are not Christians because we have separated ourselves from other people, but rather because we have been separated for God by Christ.  Do you see the difference?  The power to put to death earthly and fleshly desires and to live in a Christ-like way comes as we live in the new reality of Christ’s presence.  Let us stop looking around us, and start looking upwards!

Prayer: Father, I confess my sinfulness to You, especially my tendency to look at my performance as if that’s why I am different from others.  I am in need of your grace and mercy.  I ask that you would bring healing into my heart and my mind.   I want to live this day in your joyful presence.  In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 10


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 2:2-11: Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Questions to Consider

  1. What earthly things did Paul formerly take pride in (vv.5-6)?
  2. What is Paul’s new desire?
  3. How is the Spirit challenging you to follow Paul’s example?

Notes

1. Paul formerly derived his identity from his ethnic and spiritual heritage.  He was ethnically, educationally, and religiously on par with any Jewish believer.  

2. After encountering Jesus Christ, Paul forsook everything that had previously given him worth so that he could find his worth through Christ.  Paul uses a Hebraism here (see similar examples spoken by Jesus e.g. Luke 14:26) where he describes the former things as rubbish to contrast how much greater the worth of Christ is.

3. Personal response.


Evening Reflection  

Please spend some time meditating upon your desires.  Is your desire for earthly things or for Christ?  Take some time to pray that Christ would become your greatest desire.

July 25, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on February 2, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Why We Come to Church”

Lk. 10:30-6 (ESV)

Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. [31] Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. [32] So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. [33] But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. [34] He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. [35] And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ [36] Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”

Lk. 10:25 (NIV): On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,” he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” 

Matt. 11:28 (NASB): “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

While some teenagers may come to church to meet cute boys or girls, and some grownups for business opportunities, this lawyer came to Jesus for an entirely different reason.  Here, the lawyer came “to test” Jesus, which the Greek word ekpeirazō is used; but the same Greek word is used when Jesus tells the devil, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (Matt. 4:7 KJV).  While testing measures a student’s progress, tempting is to seek his downfall; this lawyer “tempted Jesus” (KJV).  He probably belonged to a group of “Pharisees and Herodians” who tried “to catch [Jesus] in his words” (Mk. 12:13) to accuse him.

So is there any unacceptable motive for going to church or reading the Bible?  Absolutely none.  Simon Greenleaf, Professor of Law at Harvard in the middle of 19th century, believed the resurrection of Christ to be a hoax.  Ironically, after setting out to expose its “myth,” his research led to the exact opposite conclusion.   Greenleaf, then, wrote a book, Examination of the Testimony of the Four Evangelists by the Rules of Evidence Administered in the Courts of Justice, in which he said, “It was impossible that they could have persisted in affirming the truths they have narrated, had not Jesus actually risen from the dead.”

The first film to win 11 Oscars is “Ben-Hur,” based on the bestselling novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ, by Lew Wallace in 1880.  He began that project with “no convictions about God or Christ”; writing was only an outlet for his creativity.  But an unexpected thing happened.  Wallace said, “I need to do the research; I need to learn the Bible. . . . Long before I was through with my book, I became a believer in God and Christ.”  

This lawyer in the parable came with the worst motive possible, but Christ would soon place him where he may be a step away from salvation.   So what is keeping you from going to church or reading the Bible?  For whatever reason, go to church and read the Bible; and if you’re intellectually honest, you will find that Christ makes sense—you will find rest in him. 

Prayer: No motive is hidden before you, Lord; for You know what is in a man.  Regardless, You do not reject any person for coming to you, even one with the worst motive, like Judas and like this lawyer.   Your love is so unfathomable; so unlike anything this world has to offer.   I love and worship You!  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 9


Lunch Break Study

Read Is. 55:1-3 (ESV): “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!  Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. [2] Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.[3] Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live . . .” 

Jn. 6:35 (ESV):Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.’”

Question to Consider

1. What is the irony of this contrast?  Give an example of what some people “buy” to be happy.

2. Is God talking about a balanced diet of meat and vegetables, or is it something else?  

3. How is your spiritual diet?  Are you eating healthy spiritually?  What is lacking in your present eating habit?

Notes

1. People don’t take advantage of the free things which are so good for them; rather, they pay for things of the world which are harmful for them.  A good example is plastic surgery: it may improve the outside but without the change inside, nothing really changes.

2. Bread refers to Jesus as well as the Word of God.   Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone,
 but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4).  Without eating for a long time, people die of hunger; without consuming spiritual food for a long, people die spiritually being alienated from God, others, and even self.   

3. Some people fill their spiritual diet with Christian music or books; those are good fillers but not the main staple—a biblical spiritual diet, consisting of a solid understanding of God’s Word (to be applied immediately) and a consistent prayer life that has depth and length. 


Evening Reflection

Did anything you did today make you feel distant from God?  Did you entertain some wrong motives in what you did or say?  We learned today that nothing should keep us from coming to Him.  Come to the Lord right now; buy from Him that which we can never buy from app stores or Amazon. 

July 24, Sunday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, first posted on November 8, 2015, is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee.  Now a friend of AMI, Yohan in the past has served as a staff at several AMI churches.  He is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Cairn University (MA).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Does Good Reputation Matter?”

Nehemiah 6:10-13

Now when I went into the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, son of Mehetabel, who was confined to his home, he said, “Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple. Let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you. They are coming to kill you by night.” 11 But I said, “Should such a man as I run away? And what man such as I could go into the temple and live? I will not go in.” 12 And I understood and saw that God had not sent him, but he had pronounced the prophecy against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 For this purpose he was hired, that I should be afraid and act in this way and sin, and so they could give me a bad name in order to taunt me.

Back in the late-1990s, it was revealed that President Bill Clinton was having an affair with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.  Clinton was eventually impeached and then acquitted, not for the affair itself, but rather for lying about it.  Eventually, the biggest question that came out of this whole scandal was, “Does the American public care what the president does in his personal life, as long he is running our country efficiently?”  By in-large, most Americans answered that question with a “no”; and Clinton’s term in office has generally been regarded as a success.  

Having said all that, I think having a good reputation still matters.  While many respect Clinton for the things he accomplished in office, how many of even his staunchest followers would put a lot of stock in any marriage advice he could possibly give?  You see, one of the more difficult things about being in ministry (all those in ministry, not just pastors) is maintaining, not just a good reputation, but a reputation that makes your voice matter to others.  For example, let’s say you are a small group leader; and while playing golf with a few of your members, you lose your temper and become childishly irritable (breaking clubs, yelling at the ball, crashing the cart, etc.), because you haven’t been able to hit a decent tee shot all day.  Do you think you will have the platform to lead these people and speak with them about their anger issues?  Same with things like drinking: Would you want to be told to curb your drinking by your small group leader who just went bar-hopping with you two weeks ago?  And this applies in the area of giving, honesty and integrity, as well as having daily devotions.  In the end, if you want to be an influencer in the kingdom of God, then you have to be careful to make sure your life and words are consistent, keeping an upright and respectable reputation.  

At first, you may look at today’s Bible passage, and ask, what’s was the big deal?  It appears that the issue involved one of two possible things: First, Nehemiah was not a priest, so he was not allowed in the temple, even to save his own life.  Or two, running into the temple would have made Nehemiah look like a coward, especially since everyone working on the wall was, to a certain extent, in danger.  Either way, Nehemiah found it more important to risk his own life than to discredit his own name with the people (see 6:13).  Today, let me ask you this: What are the things you have to “risk” to keep a good reputation among others?  Most of us don’t have to risk our lives like Nehemiah did, but I am guessing that we will have to sacrifice some forms of “fun.”  Is it worth to deny yourself in some way for the kingdom of God?

Prayer: Lord, help me to see the beauty and worth of doing Your work and paying the price in order to keep a good reputation with others.  If I have already broken that record, please give me the fortitude to win it back.  Ultimately, make me a person of true character—make me more like Jesus.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 8 

July 23, Saturday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Doug Tritton, was first posted on December  5, 2015.  A graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), Doug is the Lead Pastor of the UC site of Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia. 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“What Do You Do When No One Recognizes You?”

Esther 6:1-3

On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. And the king said, “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” The king’s young men who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.”

Have you ever done something, thinking you would earn recognition, only to find that no recognition or honor was given? That can often be quite painful. It feels good to be recognized, to get that high-five or pat on the back or that “good job.” But sometimes, no one notices what we do. We are left hanging, like an unreciprocated high-five.

In Esther 2, Mordecai helped stop a plot against the king’s life. He and Esther foiled this plot and thus saved the king from being murdered. Yet, no honor was seemingly given to Mordecai for helping the king; his hand was raised for that high-five, but none was given. But here in Esther 6, as the king was going through the book of memorable deeds, he found the good deed that Mordecai had done for the king. He learned that no honor had been given to Mordecai. Later in the chapter we see the king bestowing great honor on Mordecai, much to the humiliation of Haman.

In our own lives, we may feel like the good deeds we do go unnoticed. We may feel like there is no reason to keep serving or to continue loving others. Maybe we are close to giving up. But remember that verse in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” God has His own book of memorable deeds—and He knows everything we do. No good deed will go unnoticed by Him.

Though we may not see fruit today or may not receive recognition from others, let’s press on in the kingdom work, knowing that our God sees all. Let us look forward to that day when we shall stand before Him and hear Him say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” He will surely not leave us hanging.

Prayer: Lord, thank You that You see all we do. Help us to persevere in Your work knowing that we will reap a harvest in due time. And help us not give up but rather keep our eyes on You. Though the world may try to harden our hearts and stop us from loving others, give us strength to keep on going for Your glory.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 6-7

July 22, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by Pastor Sam Lee who heads Catalyst Agape Church in New Jersey, was first posted on May 18, 2015.  He is a graduate of University of Wisconsin (BA) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Clay in the Potter’s Hand”

Jeremiah 18:6

“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!” 

I would watch my children play with clay. The clay would get stretched, pulled, and dirtied. In other words, the clay would get abused, and eventually the poor clay would be thrown away because it cannot be used anymore. Clay in the hands of a child becomes a toy to be used and discarded; clay in the hands of a potter is similar yet very different in a profound way. This clay is also stretched and pulled, yet it is being stretched and pulled not to be discarded but to become something that is valued, useful, and beautiful. The greater the potter, greater the value of what the clay becomes.  A Ming Dynasty vase can cost over $10 million dollars today. You, in the hands of the Master, are worth infinitely more. 

Yet it is not easy to stay in the hands of the Master. Therefore, let’s cast off the things that make us move away from the Potter’s hand. I have learned that staying in the hands of God is not about being silent and just waiting; it is hard spiritual work. There are many different ways we knowingly and unknowingly move away from the hands of the Potter. 

Ask the Holy Spirit to shine His light on anything that makes us move away from the Potter’s hand. It might be worldly philosophies, wrong mindsets and belief system, lies, a temptation you are facing during this season, or it might be simple as a complaining spirit. 

As the Holy Spirit shines His light into your heart, turn away and renounce those things that hinder you from drawing close to God. And spend the rest of the day submitting yourself to the Lord. The world tempts us with comfort and riches, but God wants to do much more for you—a life that is much more worthwhile. But to do this work, He is looking for clay that is compliant and moldable—clay that trusts and is completely yielded to Jesus.

Prayer:  You know my going in and my going out. You know my innermost thoughts. Sovereign Lord, You have the best plan for my life. I submit to your agenda and for you to shape me into the person You want me to be, for I am clay in Your hands.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 5


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 139:1-8: “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. 5 You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”

Questions to Consider

1. David mentions several areas of his personal life that God has “searched and known.”  List many as you can where God has searched and known your life. 

2. Does God know your thoughts?  If yes, should we be afraid?

3. Meditate on how God knows about your life.

Note

1. It could be your thought life, prayer life, relationships, entertainment choices, etc.

2. Of course, God knows our thoughts but we don’t need to be afraid because our God is a good and kind deity.

3. Personal response


Evening Reflection

We began the day reflecting on God’s sovereignty. Did you experience that today?  

Share your story.

July 21, Thursday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional provided by Cami King, now a friend of AMI, was first posted on August 13, 2015.  Cami served faithfully as a staff at several AMI churches in the past.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Getting Even With the Enemy?”

2 Kings 6:18-23

When they came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord and said, “Strike this people with blindness, I pray.” So He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.19 Then Elisha said to them, “This is not the way, nor is this the city; follow me and I will bring you to the man whom you seek.” And he brought them to Samaria. 20 When they had come into Samaria, Elisha said, “O Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the Lord opened their eyes and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. 21 Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” 22 He answered, “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel.

I can only remember two times in my life having what I would describe as an enemy. The most memorable was a boy in my 5th grade class who just wouldn’t leave me alone. Finally, at the end of the school year, I’d had enough – when he took his teasing too far, I chased him all the way to the playground, socked him a good one, and shoved his head in the sand underneath the tire swings. Needless to say, he stopped bothering me after that. And now we can look back on the whole thing and laugh. 

In our story for today, Elisha and the people of Israel have an opportunity to get even with their enemies. Through God’s power at work in Elisha, Israel’s enemies, the Arameans, are struck blind and led right into the middle of Israel’s camp. At this point (blind and in their enemy’s camp), the Arameans could easily have been captured and killed. But Elisha chooses a different way. Not only does Israel not put the Aramean army to death – they show them great hospitality and bless them before sending them on their way. 

It’s not often that the average person has enemies in the conventional sense – but we all have people who are far from “friends” in our lives. Whether it’s an annoying person at work or the relative who always has something negative to say or even institutions that make life more difficult – for all of us a name or two likely comes to mind. 

In dealing with these people, we stand to learn much from the prophet Elisha. Not only did he not get even when he had the chance, but he went so far as to be a blessing to those who opposed him. Why? Because through his kind and righteous behavior, his enemies were able to see the power of God at work, the result of which is much more valuable than vengeance. His enemies ceased to pursue him anymore and, even more importantly, quit opposing the sovereign work of God which was at work through His people Israel. 

I remember reading a prayer by Scotty Smith that said, “Lord, I am certain that I want to honor you more than I want to feel vindicated.” That’s not an easy prayer to pray, but it is one that can both free us from those who oppose us and open their eyes to see God at work in one fell swoop. 

Prayer: Lord, I want to honor you more than I want to feel vindicated. In every relationship or area of opposition in my life, make this prayer genuine in my heart. Help me to truly believe that loving my enemies is always the best way.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 4


Lunch Break Study

Read Romans 12:14-21: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does it mean to bless and not curse our enemies? How might that practically play out in your life? 
  2. How might our actions in taking revenge fail to leave room for God’s vengeance? 
  3. Why are God’s instructions to us in verse 20 so important? What is He ultimately asking us to do? 

Notes

  1. Our tendency when someone opposes us is to speak negatively against them and wish ill towards them (and understandably so). But instead of doing this, we are called to bless them – not only with our words but also with our actions. This could take many forms, none of which will likely be easy to do. 
  2. When we seek revenge, we always are in sin. This is the first problem Paul instructions seek to help us avoid. But even further, God can enter into situations where we’ve been wronged and make things right in ways we often can’t imagine. Even more, He is able to change the heart of our oppressors. This is the greater victory. 
  3. Where our natural response to opposition is to destroy the source, God calls us to not only resist that impulse but to respond with actions that bring life. Feeding the hungry and giving a drink to the thirsty are all life preserving actions. As people of God, we are called to bring life, even to the one who seeks our destruction. In so doing, we both preserve our life and theirs as well. 

Evening Reflection

In what ways can you “over come evil with good” in your life right now? Who are the people around you whom God is calling you to bless even as they oppose you? Spend some time seeking the Lord about these things. Ask Him to show you practical ways to be a blessing. Ask Him to forgive you for ways you’ve breathed curses and for His love to fill your heart for your enemies. Spend some time reflecting on the cross and Jesus’ willingness to come for us when we were God’s enemies. 

July 20, Wednesday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on September 2, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“A Raw Deal from God”

2 King 14:23-29

In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. 24 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin. 25 He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. 26 For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel. 27 But the Lord had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash. 28 Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam and all that he did, and his might, how he fought, and how he restored Damascus and Hamath to Judah in Israel, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 29 And Jeroboam slept with his fathers . . .

Jeremiah (12:1) once complained to God, saying, “Why does the way of the wicked prosper?” Perhaps, he thought of Jeroboam II whose penchant for evil rivaled that of his predecessor Jeroboam I who, to avoid losing his power, introduced a counterfeit religion to Israel (i.e., worshiping golden calves, non-levitical priesthood) “that led to . . . its destruction” (1 Ki. 13:34).  And for that, God rightfully punished him (14:10-13).  

When compared to how God treated Jeroboam II, however, maybe Jeroboam I got a raw deal because God, instead of punishing Jeroboam II, blessed him like no other kings before or after him.  Under his regime, Israel enlarged its territory like never before, extending it border as far as the Sea of Arabah near Jordon and Damascus.  And according to Amos (1:1) who prophesied during this period, it was a time of unprecedented economic prosperity.  People had winter as well as summer mansions adorned with ivory (3:15); they “dine[d] on choice lambs and fattened calves” (6:4). As for the king himself, unlike other evil kings who suffered a tragic ending, he died peacefully (2 Ki. 14:29).  

So, why did God bless Jeroboam II and Israel despite their continued rebellion?  He was calling them to repent!  Now, this may come as a surprise to those who equate God’s call to repentance to warnings of dire consequences if not complied to.  While that is not untrue, we mustn’t forget that God is always “kind to the ungrateful and wicked” (Lk. 6:35), thereby giving them an opportunity to experience His unmerited favor (i.e., grace) that would elicit the kind of response the fisherman Peter had upon realizing that the man responsible for his large haul of fish was the Christ: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man” (5:8).  

Unfortunately, Israel’s response was just the opposite: Thinking that they deserved everything they got, they fell into pride and callousness.  And that’s when God came with a sword: “I abhor the pride of Jacob and detest his fortresses; I will deliver up the city and everything in it” (Amos 6:8).

One word of advice: Respond to God when He is being “nice” to us!  Repent. Today.

Prayer: God, how awesome it is to be given this privilege of knowing and worshiping You.  How amazing it is that You show the best of Your grace when I deserve it the least.  I am in awe of your unfathomable ways in which You continue to favor me on account of your Son Jesus Christ.  Thank you. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Samuel 3


Lunch Break Study 

Read Romans 2:3-4: Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

2 Cor. 6:1: Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.

Jude 1:4: For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.

Question to Consider

1. What is the spiritual logic behind God’s kindness leading us to repentance?

2. Describe what God was doing for Jeroboam II and Israel by blessing them in accordance to Romans 2:3-4?

3. What is the worst thing we can do with God’s grace? How are you handling it at the moment?

Notes

1. When we do wrong, our conscience (unless it has been desensitized) is bothered and we expect to be caught and then punished.  Let’s assume that a policeman stopped you for a traffic violation.  But instead of issuing the ticket, he gives you a pep talk about safe driving and a piece of bubble gum to boot—now, that’s kindness!  And when the officer is leaving and says, “Drive safely,”  we say, “Yes sir!”

2. God was forbearing, being kind and patient with Jeroboam II and Israel so that they would repent.

3. The worst thing we can do with God’s grace is to receive it in vain and then abuse it with this type of thinking: “Since He is not willing to punish me for my sins, I’m going to continue in them.” Don’t forget: “You may be sure that sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23).


Evening Reflection

In the same way that fish may not be conscious of water that surrounds it, we may not be all that conscious of God’s grace and mercy which we receive from Him daily.  Look back to this day and recall the times when it was evident that God was being gracious and merciful to you.  Thank Him.