September 3, Friday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by then (2013) staff of Remnant Westside Church in Manhattan, was first posted on September 27, 2013.  

Devotional Thought for This Morning 

“God our Shelter”

Psalm 91:1-16

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. 5 You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8 You will only look with your eyes   and see the recompense of the wicked. 9 Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place—the Most High, who is my refuge—10 no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. 11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. 12 On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. 14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15 When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. 16 With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Within this morning’s Psalm is the bold proclamation of what it means to make God our shelter. The psalmist declares that when we are in the shadow of the Almighty, we will experience no fear or pestilence. Thousands may fall around us and destruction may threaten us, but God will guard us with His angels. For many Christians, there is a conflict between this Psalm and the difficult situations and circumstances we may face. Even Jesus Himself experienced this conflict. The devil used this text to tempt Jesus, right after His wilderness experience. Jesus’ response to the devil was, “Do not put God to the test.” 

What Jesus knew and what the psalmist declared was the truth; that God is our refuge and fortress and we can trust in Him (v.2). Even when we go through pain and difficulties, God reminds us through this text that He will persevere with us. This is an exhortation for us to cling to the Lord even more so during times of darkness because God will answer and rescue us.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, you sing and rejoice over me, both loudly and silently. What great joy and delight to know that you sing over me and my journey in this life.  Father, You love me just as you love your Son, Jesus, and such knowledge is too wonderful for me to contain! Thank You.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 13


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 4:10-13: I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Questions to Consider

  1. Paul now thanks the Philippians and turns it into a teaching moment. What does Paul point out here?  In other words, what is he teaching?
  2. Until Paul had received the gift, he was “in need,” yet, he was content, meaning satisfied with what he had. Why?
  3. Are you a giving or helpful person? Ask the Lord to show you opportunities to help people in need.  How would you rate your contentment with your current circumstances? How does verse 13 encourage you in this regard?

Notes

  1. Paul points out that although he is thankful for the gift, he wants the Philippians to know that their giving is an act of service to God, rather than just doing Paul a favor.
  2. Because he had Christ! This is not a hypothetical lesson that Paul is expounding on; his life is his evidence! And this was his secret to his contentment.
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Zephaniah 3:17: “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save;

he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, my soul has to sing out Your praise in light of all that You are and all that You have done! I thank You for creating me to worship You and You alone.  Lord, allow Your joy to invade my heart!  Amen.

Praise Him for how He is same yesterday, today and forever.

September 2, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional—first posted on June 5, 2015—is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI, who 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).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Don’t Be Cheap!”

2 Samuel 24:21-24

Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?”  “To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped.”  22 Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever he wishes and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. 23 Your Majesty, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the Lord your God accept you.”  24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

I purchased my wife’s engagement ring online.  As I opened the Fed-Ex envelope it came in, I was pretty nervous.  Sure I did my research on the four “C’s” of diamonds (clarity, cut, color, carat), but practically speaking, I didn’t really know what any of that stuff meant.  For example, an “F” color rating is supposed to represent a “colorless” diamond; however, I was still a little scared that my wife’s diamond would bear a slight resemblance to yellow snow.  Mercifully, upon arrival, everything was perfect (or at least as perfect as could be expected at my price point).  The ring glimmered, the proportions looked right, even the box it came in had an elegant look and smell to it.  

As I sat there grateful for my purchase, the realization hit me that this tiny thing I held in my hand, that was less than an inch in diameter and weighed mere ounces, represented the second most expensive thing that I had ever purchased in my life (car being number 1).  It took me months of saving so that I could give this ring to my then girlfriend as an expression of my love and desire to spend the rest of my life with her.  The day I proposed, I carried that ring around in my pocket for several hours.  I was so nervous it was going to fall out, that I think I checked my pocket every 10 minutes that day.  

For all the wrong that David did in his life, you catch these glimpses of why the Bible describes him as “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Sam 13:14).  I am ashamed to admit that I’m so cheap, that if Araunah offered me his field and oxen, I probably would have taken them and thought, “The Lord has provided!”  But David understood an important truth to offering and sacrifice—it must be costly to be meaningful.  

When you make offerings to the Lord, are they costly?  Or do you give him what is left after you’ve paid your mortgage, car payments, retirement, savings, entertainment, etc.  Has giving to the Lord ever interfered with your plans or purchases?  Is your service truly a sacrifice of your time, or do you only serve in weeks when you have time to spare?  Has your service to the Lord interfered with a deadline or family function (sometimes it happens)?  Maybe you felt the call to go on missions instead of vacation?  I don’t know what it means for you to give costly offerings to the Lord, but I hope when the time comes, you are able to do so because you love Him.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to be a living sacrifice (Rom.12:2).  Let my time, possessions, money, and even myself be fully Yours.  May I give greatly because I love greatly.  Thank you that you showed the way by sacrificing your own Son. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Matthew 12

Lunch Break Study

Read 2 Corinthians 9:6-15: Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.8 And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. 9 As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” 10 Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

12 This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. 13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Questions to Consider

1.  What is the attitude with which we should give?

2.  What can we learn about giving and God from this passage?

3.  How is God glorified when we give?

Notes

1.  We should give generously (v. 6) and cheerfully (v. 7).

2.  God gives to us, and He is able to supply all of our needs (v. 8-10).  God blesses you so that you can be generous (v. 11); this is kind of the opposite of a televangelist’s message: “If you give us money, God will reward you 10 times over.”  

3.  Giving to others not only results in people praising God for you, but it represents a thank offering to God (v. 12).  

Evening Reflection

How is your giving?  Are you generous?  Not only to the church, but to people and organizations in need?  Do you give with a cheerful heart?  Do you give more than your money, but serve with your time as well?  Is there an area in your life that you feel compelled to give more?  

September 1, Wednesday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Cami King who serves as associate pastor at Remnant Church in Manhattan, was first posted on September 2, 2015.  Cami is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.).  

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Unintended Consequences of Sin”

1 Samuel 28:15-19

Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” 16 And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David.18 Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day.19 Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.”

Dr. David Jeremiah, in Turning Point Daily Devotional, tells of a man who set out to steal gas from a motor home. He attached his siphoning hose to the tank and went to work. But when police arrived on the scene, the man lay writhing on the ground because he’d unintentionally attached his hose to the motor home’s sewage tank.  The point: sin always has unintended consequences. 

As comical (and disgusting) as that story may be, there is nothing funny about sin and its consequences in our lives. But taking a look into my own heart and reflecting on the few years I’ve done ministry in the church, I’m not convinced that many believers have a real concept of the consequences of sin. 

Most of us are spoiled by grace. We are highly aware of the grace God offers in Christ, the forgiveness of our sin, but easily lose sight of what Jesus actually had to overcome to make that grace available to us. Sin has real material and spiritual consequences. And without this awareness of sin, we cheapen the grace of God.  

As Saul’s life comes to an end, we see a clear picture of the effects of rebellion against God. Saul’s rebellion resulted in his demise as the king of Israel and eventually the loss of his life. The Bible tells us that all sin leads to death (James 1:15). And while the consequences of sin may not manifest in our lives as literally as they did in Saul’s, the end is still the same.

If someone told you that your choices and behaviors would surely bring about your death, wouldn’t you be hard pressed to take an alternate course of action? But that’s precisely what the Bible tells us about sin, and yet we struggle to will ourselves to change course. May we not fall victim to the unintended consequences of sin. Every good thing we desire and pursue in sinful ways will always evade us. All life and every good thing are only found in persistent submission to the Lordship of Christ. 

Prayer: Lord, so often I choose to do things my own way, oblivious to the end result of my choices. Please forgive me. Help me to surrender to You and Your ways so that I can enjoy the abundant life You offer in Christ. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 11


Lunch Break Study

Read Romans 6:20-23: For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Questions to Consider

  1. How would you answer Paul’s question in verse 21? What has been the fruit of your own sinful habits (try to be specific)? 
  2. Elsewhere, the Bible says Jesus has set us free (e.g., John 8), but here Paul talks about us being slaves to God. From this passage, how can both be true?
  3. Spend some time reflecting on v. 23. What can you learn from this verse? 


Notes

  1. The fruit of our sin is death – both physically and spiritually – that can come in the form of broken relationships, missed opportunities, wasted resources, regret, shame, etc.
  2. Most of us define freedom as choosing to do whatever we want, but true freedom is choosing to do what enables us to do what we want (there is a difference). Sin leads to bondage, where we are enslaved to our patterns of sin whether we want them or not. But choosing to submit ourselves to the Lordship of Christ (even though it looks like slavery) leads to freedom from sin, so that we are able to choose what we want to do and what’s best for us and enjoy abundant life.  
  3. In the economy of sin, we work our whole lives only to receive a “pay check” of death. Death is what our sinful efforts earn for us. But in Christ, we are given a free gift of eternal life. We don’t work for it and earn a “pay check” from God. We simply receive. 

Evening Reflection

In C. S. Lewis’ book, The Screwtape Letters, an older demon counsels a younger demon about how to lead humans away from God. He explains, “It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to keep the man away from the Light.… Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

Take some time to reflect on this quote and what it means in your life. Are there any “small” sinful practices in your life? Are there brief but habitual moments of rebellion? Spend sometime offering these things to the Lord and ask for His help in choosing a different course. 

August 31, Tuesday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor David Kwon who heads Journey Community Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, was first posted on November 11, 2013.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (BS) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Finding Reasons to be Thankful”

Psalm 100:1-5 (ESV)

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! 3 Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! 5 For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. 

When I was a child, Psalm 100 was a very familiar call to worship in my local church. I was always excited for the singing and clapping of hands that would ensue whenever our worship leader opened the service by reading it. I’d imagine that the doors of the church were God’s “gates,” and I sensed that I was supposed to start thanking Him for all he’d done for me whenever I walked through them. Although it didn’t all make sense at the time, I figured there was something important to thanking the Lord and I knew I always felt better when I did. 

In a couple of months, Americans will be celebrating a day of giving thanks. One mother wrote out her reasons for being thankful as follows:

“For automatic dishwashers because they make it possible for us to get out of the kitchen before the family comes back in for their after dinner snacks. 

For husbands who attack small repair jobs around the house because they usually make them big enough to call in the professionals. 

For children who put away their things and clean up after themselves. They’re such a joy that you hate to see them go home to their own parents. 

For teenagers because they give parents an opportunity to learn a second language. 

For smoke alarms because they let you know when the turkey’s done.”

Although our lists may look a little different, we all can find something for which to be thankful. Yet, many in our country aren’t quite sure to whom their thanks should be directed. But Scripture teaches us that every good and perfect gift is from God (James 1:17). We owe our gratitude to Him for He truly has done marvelous things. Let Psalm 100 be your call to worship this morning and usher you into praise.

Prayer: Lord, thank You that You rule and reign over all creation and in our personal lives.  Help me to trust You in all things as I am reminded of that truth.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 10


Lunch Break Study

Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV): Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. 

Questions to Consider

  1. What does Paul encourage us to do here?
  2. What are the components of Paul’s remedy for anxiety (worry)? How are these related to the preceding command to rejoice always?
  3. What types of things are we encouraged to think about? Are these the types of thoughts that typically dominate your mind? 

Notes

  1. Paul encourages us to pray in the face of worry and anxiety.  He tells us to talk to God about what’s going on and to ask him (petition) for what we need. One important factor in this passage is thanksgiving. Along with expressing concerns and asking for help, it’s important that we give thanks to God for who He is and the things He has done. This is more important for us than for God.  When Peter walked on water in the midst of the storm, as long as his eyes were fixed on Jesus, he was capable of the impossible. But the stormy waters distracted him (and understandably so) and caused fear. He took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink. Similarly, the storms of life can distract us from the reality of who God is and what He can do. So if we give thanks, we remind ourselves of the solid rock upon which we stand, the God in whom we trust. We can rejoice in God always because He is unchanging even when life is constantly changing. 
  2. Paul also encourages believers to fill our thoughts with truth. At first glance, verse 8 can sound a bit like New Age thought with its focus on self-help and positive thinking. But the difference here is that the object of our thoughts must be God himself. He is the one who is true and noble and pure and lovely. When circumstances around us are as such that we are tempted to worry, we have to remember the truth of God’s word and the beauty of his character and the praiseworthiness of his deeds. This is how we participate in guarding our minds and allowing God to fill us with peace. 
  3. Are there situations in your life today that are leading you to worry? Follow Paul’s advice and bring them before God, with a heart of thanksgiving for who God is and what He can do. Are your thoughts focused on all things true, lovely, praiseworthy, admirable? Ask the Holy Spirit to bring these kinds of thoughts to your mind and replace any lies with truth, anything impure with pure thoughts, and so on and so forth. Let’s dwell in the peace God longs to give us. 

Evening Reflection 

“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and, as the magnet finds the iron, so it will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings!” (Henry Ward Beecher)

In his book on spiritual disciplines, John Ortberg encourages readers to spend time in the evening reviewing their day with God. The principle behind this discipline is to make ourselves aware of the movements of God throughout the day that we can so easily miss in our fast-paced lives. Spend some time reviewing the movements of God in your day today – how was He working in and around you? Ask God to open your eyes to see. Give Him thanks for the specific things He has done today. 

August 30, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on March 6, 2015; it has been updated. Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Our Illegitimate Desires”

1 Samuel 12:17-25 (ESV)

Is it not wheat harvest today? I will call upon the Lord, that he may send thunder and rain. And you shall know and see that your wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in asking for yourselves a king.” 18 So Samuel called upon the Lord, and the Lord sent thunder and rain that day, and all the people greatly feared the Lord and Samuel. 19 And all the people said to Samuel, “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.” 20 And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 22 For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. 23 Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. 24 Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. 25 But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.” 

In the course of life, it is important to realize that not every request that we make before God is actually legitimate or even good for us.  As a father of two children, I have had to deny many unwise and unhealthy requests, ranging from eating candy for breakfast to using all of their savings for video games.  Obviously, as a parent I have a clearer understanding of the long term effects of present decisions, so while they are young, my responsibility is to help my kids make good choices in life.  However, there will be a time when I will have to let them loose, allowing them to make their own decisions as well as live with the consequences.  It frightens me to some degree, but this is a natural part of growing up.  

In relation to our illegitimate desires, God can go one of two ways: He can either choose not to answer the request and save us from a painful mistake, or He can answer the request and let us deal with the consequences, with the hopes that we learn from the eventual fall out.  Either way, God wishes the best for his children, and His goodness certainly cannot be questioned in whatever decision we make.  

The miracle described in this passage is a frightening reminder that we must live with the consequences of our daily choices.  In this particular scenario, the Lord waits until the day of the wheat harvest to bring a storm with thunder and lightning.   Not only is this a case of unseasonal weather, it would have destroyed the wheat and significantly reduced the harvest.  In their desire to have an earthly king, the Israelites lost sight of what they would lose.  They failed to recognize that the society and their own lives would eventually suffer under the reign of human rulers.  However, in the midst of this sign of judgment, Samuel offers them the assurance that God will never forsake them.  As believers, this is our confidence as well.  Though we sin and face the consequences of our actions, the Lord will continue to love us and promises to never leave us.  

Prayer: Lord, help us to remember that Your ways are higher than our ways, and that You know ultimately what is best.    Place a heart of trust within us so that we can live a life of obedience, even when things don’t make sense.  Also, give us wisdom and discernment so that we would know what to ask of You.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Matthew 9


Lunch Break Study

Read James 1:5-8 (NIV): If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. 

Questions to Consider

  1. Why is praying for wisdom so important to the Christian life? 
  2. What does it mean to ask for wisdom in faith?
  3. How are wisdom, faith, and prayer connected?  

Notes

  1. Every Christian will go through difficult times, and only the wisdom of God will provide the divine vision and perspective to help us through.  More than silver and gold, the person who desires wisdom will flourish and grow during the trials of life.   
  2. It is important to discern wisdom that comes from man versus the wisdom of God.  Secular wisdom can be helpful in certain situations, but only the wisdom that comes from God, which is a gift, is able to help us deal with spiritual matters.
  3. There is a close connection between faith, prayer, and wisdom. The person who asks for the wisdom of God has to have faith.  Wisdom, then allows that person to persevere and grow in their faith.  Therefore, both wisdom and faith grow together feeding into one another.  Growth in wisdom is to understand that everything of faith is from God. Prayer is the means by which we exercise our faith by asking for this divine wisdom over and against other worldly things that we may desire.  

Evening Reflection

When is the last time you asked for the wisdom of God in faith?  What were some wise decisions that you have recently made?  What were some foolish choices in the recent past and the consequences of those decisions?  Reflect on the story of Solomon who asked for wisdom and a discerning mind instead of riches and fame from 1 Kings 3.            

August 29, Sunday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, first posted on April 25, 2015, is provided by Pastor Jason Sato who, along with his wife Jessica and three young children, serves in Japan as an AMI missionary.  He and his wife just planted an English-speaking church in Tokyo. 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

2 Samuel 5:1-5 (ESV)

Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Behold, we are your bone and flesh. [2] In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the LORD said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’” [3] So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. [4] David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. [5] At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

As a sophomore in college, I was already eager to graduate.  This was partially because I was eager to work and make money and partially because I thought I would then be done with school forever (God is funny in His providence).  In my naiveté, I imagined graduation would be the time when I finally “made it” and I could reap the benefits of my labor.  It was all very self-centered.

In our passage this morning, David is finally experiencing the fulfillment of God’s promises to him.  David is to be king and prince over Israel.  The time of running for his life and living in caves is (presumably) over!  Now David can enjoy a life of power, prestige, and wealth.  But is that all?

See, David is not only called to be prince, but he is also called to be shepherd.  Jesus tells us in John 10:11 that “the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  David’s blessings are not meant to benefit him alone, but they are given for the sake of the sheep.  David ascends to the throne, he enjoys a lengthy and prosperous reign, and he is favored by God, not for the sake of his own legacy but that he might be a greater blessing to the people of Israel.

Not only does success equip David for his shepherding ministry, but also hardship.  The many years of wandering and waiting gave David a compassionate heart.  He was a man who knew what a shepherd was meant to be – one who would give rest, lead, and comfort the sheep (Psalm 23).

So often we see success and hardship only in regards to how it benefits us.  The noblest way we interpret our circumstances is how they are maturing us or drawing us nearer to God.  Of course, we were made to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, but it rarely occurs to us that God may be shaping and reshaping us that we might be more effective at loving and caring for others.

Prayer: Father, I thank You for every blessing and every hardship.  May Your blessings draw me into greater thanksgiving and worship.  May I freely give away to others what I have received from You.  May every hardship purify my heart and make me more able to sympathize with others and shepherd them into Your presence and likeness.  Amen

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 8

August 28, Saturday

UPDATEDToday’s Spiritual Food for Thought was first posted on August 19, 2013.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

Luke 6:1-11

On a Sabbath, while he was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked and ate some heads of grain, rubbing them in their hands. 2 But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” 3 And Jesus answered them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: 4 how he entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those with him?” 5 And he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” 6 On another Sabbath, he entered the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was withered. 7 And the scribes and the Pharisees watched him, to see whether he would heal on the Sabbath, so that they might find a reason to accuse him. 8 But he knew their thoughts, and he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” And he rose and stood there. 9 And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it?” 10 And after looking around at them all he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored. 11 But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Jesus is the “Lord of the Sabbath” (v. 5).  Sabbath means “rest,” which implies that God gave the Sabbatical law so that His people could experience the true rest that could only come from God.  

After Adam broke the covenant, life on this earth was cursed and “painful toil” was necessary in order to live and have our needs met (Gen. 3:17).  However, Jesus came and invited people to enter into His rest: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).  Since Jesus is the “Lord of the Sabbath,” apart from him, there is no true rest; He is the only One who can give us the rest that we need.  Just thinking about today’s schedule can be overwhelming to some of us.  We need to pray that despite such busy schedules we can still find rest in Him.

Furthermore, rest means that we do not have to do anything; however, someone needs to work so that we can respite. It is God who works in Christ to provide something “good” for us – that is, His saving grace and healing, according to today’s passage.  

We are able to experience true rest because God provides us manna on Friday (i.e., crucifixion) that would not go stale when the new Sabbath comes (i.e., Sunday when Jesus arose from the dead).  David’s action foreshadowed what Jesus Christ, the Son of David, would come to do.  David was not a priest, yet “he entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat.  And he also gave some to his companions” (v. 4).  Jesus the Son of David is the Great High Priest who does not follow the line of the Levitical priesthood.  

We, as His disciples, are invited as “companions” to enter, not just the Holy Place, but the Most Holy Place where we are able to encounter the Lord of the Sabbath.  And in that place, we are nourished and our souls are refreshed.  Based on today’s passage, what should you be seeking during the Sunday worship, as you desire to enter into God’s rest?  

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the true rest You have provided for us in your Son Christ.  Thank You that Your Son did all the “heavy lifting” in order that we may obtain peace with God (Rom. 5:1) through His atoning sacrifice.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 6-7 

August 27, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 18, 2013.  

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Why We Ought to Be So Grateful”

Psalm 7:11-13, 17

God is a righteous judge, a God who expresses his wrath every day. 12 If he doesn’t relent, he will sharpen his sword; he will bend and string his bow 13 He has prepared his deadly weapons;  he makes ready his flaming arrows . . .  17 I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.

This Psalm surely doesn’t correspond well to how God is perceived today!  But this is who He is: a righteous Judge whose holiness will not tolerate the godlessness and wicked-ness of men (Rom.1:18).  God must punish them and He already did, by making Christ “who had no sin to be sin for us” (1 Cor. 5:21) so that He would die for “sins once for all, to bring [the unrighteous] to God” (1 Pet. 3:18).  

It was Christ who was cut with the sword and pierced with arrows. Without knowing or understanding all that God was going to do, David thanked God; how much more should we thank Christ, having already been redeemed by His atoning sacrifice.

Life is never perfect, for we have problems; some more than others. But in view of this awesome God, who loves us much, let’s start the day by worshiping Him.  

Prayer: Oh Lord my God, how I behold Your beauty and majesty with awe and fear!  Though You are my friend, yet You are the God of the universe whose holiness is beyond my grasp; that You would put up with someone like me is absolutely unbelievable.  But it is true.  I want to do good, not just because of the rewards in heaven, but because I love You and want to love You more each day.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 5


Lunch Break Study

Read 2 Sam. 9:1-11: David asked, “Is there anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom I can show kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Now there was a servant of Saul’s household named Ziba. They summoned him to appear before David, and the king said to him, “Are you Ziba?” “At your service,” he replied. The king asked, “Is there no one still alive from the house of Saul to whom I can show God’s kindness?” Ziba answered the king, “There is still a son of Jonathan; he is lame in both feet.” “Where is he?” the king asked. Ziba answered, “He is at the house of Makir son of Ammiel in Lo Debar.” So King David had him brought from Lo Debar, from the house of Makir son of Ammiel. When Mephibosheth son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, he bowed down to pay him honor. David said, “Mephibosheth!” “At your service,” he replied. “Don’t be afraid,” David said to him, “for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I will restore to you all the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will always eat at my table.” Mephibosheth bowed down and said, “What is your servant, that you should notice a dead dog like me?” Then the king summoned Ziba, Saul’s steward, and said to him, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family. 10 You and your sons and your servants are to farm the land for him and bring in the crops, so that your master’s grandson may be provided for. And Mephibosheth, grandson of your master, will always eat at my table.” (Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty servants.) 11 Then Ziba said to the king, “Your servant will do whatever my lord the king commands his servant to do.” So Mephibosheth ate at David’s[a] table like one of the king’s sons.

Questions to Consider

  1. What do suppose Mephibosheth was thinking upon being summoned by King David? 
  2. What happened to Mephibosheth instead?
  3. Why did David do this(1 Sam. 20:12-7)?  In what way does this parallel the way God has graced us?  

Notes

  1. Since Mephibosheth knew that his grandfather Saul had tried to kill David on numerous occasions, he probably expected the worst.
  2. The grandson of Saul was incredibly graced by David!  It wasn’t as if Mephibosheth was going to serve a useful purpose for David since he was lame!  So overwhelmed was Jonathan’s son that he saw himself as a dead dog who absolutely had no merit to receive anything good from the king of the land. 
  3. David did this not for the sake of Mephibosheth, but for his father, Jonathan, with whom he made a covenant.  David promised that he would not cut off his kindness from the friend’s family!  The parallel is this: God made a covenant with Abraham that all peoples on earth will be blessed through the Seed of Abraham (Gn. 12:3), the Son of David (Rom. 1:4), Jesus Christ! God being the righteous judge cuts both ways: while His holiness requires the punishment of sins, His righteousness “makes” Him a promise keeper!  We the undeserved, like Mephibosheth, receive all the benefits of that covenant without working for it. Now that’s amazing grace!

Evening Reflection

We humans get bored easily and take good things for granted.  Perhaps you and I are guilty of that.  How have you been in your walk with the Lord?  Are you still living in awe of this salvation?  Or have you been taking God and what He did for granted?  We can live an entire day without being reminded of how awesome salvation is. Reflect on that and write a note of thanks to Christ.

August 26, Thursday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor David Kwon who heads Journey Community Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, was first posted on November 16, 2013.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (BS) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Though for This Morning

“Remembering the Faithfulness of God”

Psalm 105:1-45

Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! [2] Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! [3] Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! [4] Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually![5] Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, [6] O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones! [7] He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. [8] He remembers his covenant forever, the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations, [9] the covenant that he made with Abraham, his sworn promise to Isaac, [10] which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant, [11] saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan as your portion for an inheritance.” [12] When they were few in number, of little account, and sojourners in it, [13] wandering from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another people, [14] he allowed no one to oppress them; he rebuked kings on their account, [15] saying, “Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!” [16] When he summoned a famine on the land and broke all supply of bread, [17] he had sent a man ahead of them, Joseph, who was sold as a slave. [18] His feet were hurt with fetters; his neck was put in a collar of iron;[19] until what he had said came to pass, the word of the LORD tested him. [20] The king sent and released him; the ruler of the peoples set him free; [21] he made him lord of his house and ruler of all his possessions, [22] to bind his princes at his pleasure and to teach his elders wisdom.[23] Then Israel came to Egypt; Jacob sojourned in the land of Ham. [24] And the LORD made his people very fruitful and made them stronger than their foes. [25] He turned their hearts to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants. [26] He sent Moses, his servant, and Aaron, whom he had chosen. [27] They performed his signs among them and miracles in the land of Ham. [28] He sent darkness, and made the land dark; they did not rebel against his words. [29] He turned their waters into blood and caused their fish to die. [30] Their land swarmed with frogs, even in the chambers of their kings. [31] He spoke, and there came swarms of flies, and gnats throughout their country. [32] He gave them hail for rain, and fiery lightning bolts through their land. [33] He struck down their vines and fig trees, and shattered the trees of their country. [34] He spoke, and the locusts came, young locusts without number, [35] which devoured all the vegetation in their land and ate up the fruit of their ground. [36] He struck down all the firstborn in their land, the firstfruits of all their strength. [37] Then he brought out Israel with silver and gold, and there was none among his tribes who stumbled. [38] Egypt was glad when they departed, for dread of them had fallen upon it. [39] He spread a cloud for a covering, and fire to give light by night.[40] They asked, and he brought quail, and gave them bread from heaven in abundance. [41] He opened the rock, and water gushed out; it flowed through the desert like a river. [42] For he remembered his holy promise, and Abraham, his servant. [43] So he brought his people out with joy, his chosen ones with singing. [44] And he gave them the lands of the nations, and they took possession of the fruit of the peoples’ toil, [45] that they might keep his statutes and observe his laws. Praise the LORD!

When I was a child, I remember my father’s promise that he would get me a bike if I earned good enough grades in that particular semester.  As I worked hard and kept my grades up, my father was faithful in keeping his word; I soon became the owner of a brand-new bike. It is a precious memory of my father that I have not forgotten even to this day!

Psalm 105 is about remembering the faithfulness of God to His people. From Abraham (v.1-6) to Joseph (v.16-25) to Moses (v. 26-41), it is evident that the Lord is the great promise keeper; therefore, He is worthy to be praised.   The word “covenant” is used three times in verses 8-10, which emphasizes that our God is the one who initiates, and then, carries out the promises made in the covenants.  Derek Kidner writes, “Like a jewel turned this way and that, the worship of God displays some of its many facets here, with its concern to proclaim him to the world; to delight in what he has said and done and what he is; and to show gratitude for past mercies.”  Jesus is the one who deserves all glory and worship for what he has done in each of our lives.  

Spend some time this morning reflecting on the faithfulness of God in your life.  He has been so good to you (even when you cannot see it right away).  His hand has always held you through the joys and hardships of life; He is a faithful God.  

Prayer: Dear God, thank You for Your faithfulness.  Thank You that You never change.  Thank You that I am in good hands—Your hands—always and all the time.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 4


Lunch Break Study

Read Hebrews 13:8: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Questions to Consider

  1. It is not quite the end of what was a new year 9 months ago, but you know the end of 2021 is right at the door. So what do people usually do as they are about to enter a new year? 
  2. What does it mean to you that God never changes?
  3. How should it change the way we live?

Notes

  1. At the end of the year, people often reflect on what happened that year and the changes they desire in the New Year.  You may remember successes and failures: things that make you happy and proud, or sad and ashamed.  Sometimes we are eager to make changes; other times, we feel forced to do so; either way, we are constantly changing and changes can often be good.  Most of us want to change and grow spiritually because we want to become more like Jesus. We want to forsake our sins, to honor the Lord, to be more loving and forgiving, and to let the world know what Jesus has done for us.
  2. As we have been meditating on the faithfulness of God, take some time to remember that our God never changes.  It means that His love, mercy and grace never change in spite of our failings; His goodness for us is constant and His character stays the same.  Pray that as we remember who Jesus is, it would give us greater confidence in the Lord because of who He is and what He has done.  
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

The beautiful thing about this adventure called faith is that we can count on Him never to lead us astray. – Charles (Chuck) Swindoll

As we finish the day with our evening reflection, think about the quote above by Charles Swindoll.  It summarizes what we have been reflecting on all day: our God will never lead us astray because He is faithful; therefore, we can trust Him with our money, career, future, family, etc.  Are you trusting God in all the areas of your life?  

August 25, Wednesday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Doug Tritton, was first posted on June 15, 2015.   A graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), Doug, along with his family (Cindy, Audrey and Benji), recently relocated from Boston to Philadelphia to assume the role of the UC site pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia. 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“What Burying Our Talents Looks Like in Real Life”

1 Kings 5:3-5

You know that David my father could not build a house for the name of the Lord his God because of the warfare with which his enemies surrounded him, until the Lord put them under the soles of his feet. But now the Lord my God has given me rest on every side. There is neither adversary nor misfortune. And so I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord said to David my father, “Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.”

King David’s reign was far from peaceful and he certainly had little time to rest, being constantly harassed by his many enemies. Upon his death, David’s son Solomon inherited a kingdom that finally had attained a fair amount of peace. Yet, rather than just sitting back and relaxing in this time of ease, Solomon set to work building the temple, a task ordained by God. 

What is challenging about this passage is that Solomon gave up leisure to focus on building the temple. How difficult that is! So often in my own life, when I find myself in a season of ease and peace, I turn immediately to distractions like Netflix or Hulu, binge-watching shows for hours on end, thinking that I am taking advantage of this extra free time. This is no different than the servant who buried his talent in the ground in the parable of the talents (see Matt. 25:14-30). Periods of ease are gifts from God for the sake of investing into His Kingdom.

How would our lives look differently if we invested our times of rest into Kingdom-building activities? Perhaps we could utilize those times to go deeper in our personal Bible Study. Or maybe we could use the time to build stronger relationships with brothers and sisters in the church. There is a multitude of activities that we could do that would be more impactful and more fruitful than spending time on the couch (as appealing as the couch may be).

What do we do in periods of relative ease? How do we spend our free time? Are we building up the new temple of God, the Church, or we squandering it in leisure? While there is certainly nothing wrong with a little bit of leisure, often the best times to sow for the Kingdom are the times of peace in our lives.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for placing me in Your Kingdom and giving me a new purpose. I pray that I may value my place in Your Kingdom and not waste it on vain pursuits. May my eyes ever be on You and not on this world. May Your Kingdom come and will be done in my life.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 3


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 5:15-17: Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What are some things you do that may be unwise with your time? What are some things you could do that would be wise with your time?
  2. What does Paul mean when he says that the “days are evil”?
  3. How can one understand “what the will of the Lord is”?  Why is this contrasted with foolishness?

Notes

  1. There are many, many things that are unwise! As discussed previously, binge-watching television shows is a great example. But anything that distracts us from the reality of God’s Kingdom could be unwise. Wise things would be reading the Word, praying, spending time in fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ, evangelizing, and a whole host of other activities that promote sanctification in our lives.
  2. The days are evil because we live in a world that is so often against God. We face temptations every day, but God calls us to look past this world and to see the hope of the Kingdom. Remember, Jesus said each day will bring trouble (Matt. 6:34), but our aim is to seek first His Kingdom.
  3. What a difficult question! But the only way to truly know God’s will is to know God; thus our time ought to be devoted to knowing Him more. This is true wisdom: to know God. Foolishness is ignoring God and thinking we can still understand His will. Before attempting anything for God, we ought to start with first knowing Him more.

Evening Reflection

Evaluate how you spent your time today. Do you feel like you wasted your time or do you feel like it was invested into the Kingdom of God?  Remember that God gives grace and His mercies are new every morning. Pray for the strength and resolve to seek first the Kingdom of God tomorrow.