November 15, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on April 20, 2015, is provided by Pastor Jason Sato who, along with his wife Jessica and three young children, serves in Japan as an AMI missionary.  Jason, a graduate of UC San Diego (BS) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.), recently planted an English-speaking church in Tokyo. 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Pursuing Mercy”

2 Samuel 1:23-25 (ESV)

“Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!  In life and in death they were not divided; they were swifter than eagles; they were stronger than lions. [24] You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.  [25] How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle!”

When a murderous dictator dies, what might be said in his obituary?  What words might be used by an actual victim of his violence, whose very life was threatened multiple times?  We probably wouldn’t hear words like “beloved” or “lovely,” yet this is how David describes Saul as he laments his death.

For years, David lived on the run, fearing for his life even though he had been chosen by the Lord as Israel’s next king.  David had shown only faithfulness and mercy to Saul, yet time and time again, Saul sought his life.  But rather than rejoice in his newfound safety or his impending coronation, David mourns over his enemy’s death and calls the daughters of Israel to weep over Saul.  

David not only mourns his enemy, he exalts him.  We are far more likely to remember the faults or the wounds caused by people around us than their good qualities.  Yet David can describe Saul as swift, strong and mighty.  He remembers Saul as the king who brought riches to Israel.

When I’m hurt by another person, it’s not that I wish any kind of violence against him.  But if I’m honest, I would be disappointed if he completely got away with what he’s done.  Many thoughts would run through my mind:  “How would he learn his lesson?”; “Wouldn’t it be an injustice if there were no consequences for sin?”; “What if he sins against more people?”

David has no such thoughts for he is that rare man who is not driven by vengeance, self-righteousness, or even his own well-being.  After many years of following the Lord and finding Him trustworthy, David is free to be moved by love.  He is free from the need to be judge, and he can even mourn the suffering of his enemy.

The example of David challenges us to pursue mercy for those who don’t deserve it, just as the Son of God pursued mercy for us at the cost of His life.

Prayer: Father, we live in a world in which we sin against others and others sin against us.  Give us grace to forgive freely and to bless those who have hurt us.  May we trust you to be the righteous Judge that we might concern ourselves with acting always for the good of those around us, even our enemies?  Help us to reflect your Son in this way. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: John 1


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 23:37-39 (ESV): O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! [38] See, your house is left to you desolate. [39] For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Question to Consider

1. What kind of people is Jesus speaking about?

2. How does Jesus describe Himself in relation to them?

3. Jesus is filled with compassion and even sorrow.  According to verse 38, what contributes to this heart Jesus has for them.

Notes

1. People who reject God and murder those sent by Him.  Jerusalem is the capital city so these are Israelites, people who should have been very familiar with God’s goodness. 

2. Jesus describes Himself as a mother hen.  Despite their rebellion, Jesus has a great deal of compassion and affection for the people of Jerusalem.

3. In v. 38, Jesus considers the coming judgment.  In light of it, He looks upon the people who would later reject and murder Him with compassion.


Evening Reflection

Take a moment to think about your day.  Did you have any opportunities to extend blessings to those who mistreat you?  Are you harboring any bitterness from an offense that occurred?  Take some time to bring these things before the Lord and pray that God would extend mercy and blessing to those who you struggle to love.April 21, Tuesday

November 14, Sunday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on February 8, 2014.  

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Is ‘Shacking Up’ a Good Idea to Test Compatibility for Marriage?” 

Genesis 2:24

“That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.”

The ancient Jews took engagement (a.k.a., betrothal) as seriously as the wedding itself.  After Mary was engaged, she was already called Joseph’s wife even though they wouldn’t live together and consummate their relationship for another year.   And it would require divorce to end it.   In this manner, by the time the couple was married, they really knew each other.   This, of course, is not what many young people do today, which is readily reflected in the movies that we watch.  

My wife and I watched the 1998 movie, “You’ve Got Mail” because it featured two very popular actors: Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. While it was a good “date movie,” I had reservations about heartily recommending this to impressionable young people, many of whom think nothing of “shacking up.”   

In the movie, the characters played by Hanks and Ryan end up exchanging e-mails in anonymity while they are both living with someone else.   Hank’s father and grandfather also have live-in girlfriends.  So, every couple in the movie is unmarried.  I wouldn’t have objected to “shacking up” had the characters struggled over whether it was morally right or relationally helpful, but the sun will freeze before that angle is ever written into a Hollywood script!  

Nevertheless, the movie does show that there is no commitment in shacking up:  Ryan and her live-in decide to split because they no longer love each other; the live-in girlfriend of Hank’s father leaves him with no choice since she runs off with their nanny; Hanks splits from his live-in after finally realizing that she is a capitalist without any heart.  

So a thumps up or down?  I gave it a thumbs up for truly showing that “shacking up” before marriage is not the same as trying out a pair of shoes before deciding to buy it.  Experiences in marriage as opposed to cohabitation (both in commitment level and benefits) are as different as using your I-Phone under a binding contract as opposed to prepaid.   While prepaid certainly gives you the freedom to “check out” at any time, you will never experience all the benefits of a contract: unlimited, faster 4G, simultaneous voice/data, available in all areas and personal hot spot.  Marriage is like that as well.  

So if you are serious about someone, don’t shack up.  Instead, get to know him or her better particularly through shared activities with others and in the church.  Seeing his or her interaction with all types of people and responses under different circumstances will give you a better idea whether this is someone whom you want to spend the rest of your life with.  And if you are already married, have fun, and stay faithful.   Plan to do something fun with your spouse today!

Prayer: Lord, we are truly sorry that we act as if we are smarter than You by ignoring Your blueprint for life.  May we be wise by submitting to Your design for life and Your right to rule over us.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Philemon 1

November 13, Saturday

NEW Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI who had 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

“Adequate Love”

Matthew 5:43-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Do you have people in your life who make you feel inadequate because they are perfect?  If you don’t, then I’m genuinely happy for you; but I’m going to guess that most of us have someone or perhaps dozens of people who make us feel a little insecure about ourselves.  For me, it’s this guy who lives in my town named Jack (not his real name).  I first met Jack about three years ago when our sons were on the same baseball team.  At the time, I didn’t see Jack as the threat that he would eventually become, mostly because my son was better than his at baseball. 

But as time went on and our paths crossed more, I began to find out some very wonderful things about Jack that made me like him less and less.  First, Jack’s family is almost exactly like mine. We both have four kids, and his oldest son and daughter are the same ages and grades as my oldest son and daughter.  And he, just like me, has boy-girl twins to round out the team.  The only difference is that his twins are a year younger than mine.  I also later found out that Jack lives in one of the nicest houses in our town, and not only is he way taller and way better looking than me (which I knew the first time we met), but the dude does crossfit, so he makes me feel like a scrawny teenager again.  Oh, and to top it all off, last year our sons were on the same baseball team again, and guess what . . . his son became a better player than mine.  Seriously, if I didn’t know Jack and scrolled through his Instagram account, I’d think he was one of those guys who makes up his life because no one could be that perfect.

I know that comparing yourself to others is generally not good practice, but there was always something different about the way Jesus did things.  In today’s passage, Jesus made two key comparisons challenging the way the general population thought about love.  First, he took the average person who generally thought, “I’m a loving and good person, I treat my family and friends well,” and whose general ethos was, “ If you respect me, I’ll respect you… but if you cross me, then I’ll have nothing to do with you” and compared that person to a tax collector, one of the more reviled groups in that society.  To bring it to 2021 context, Jesus was essentially saying, “Your standard of love is no different than that of a mobster.  Even mobsters love those who love them, so you can’t really think you’re that good.” 

The second comparison Jesus used was that of the love of God.  God was loving and kind to everyone; and in some ways (not all) treated everyone equally, by allowing the sun to shine on them and the rain to water their crops.  In this sense, Jesus called God’s love perfect in vs. 48.  (FYI, in the Greek the word ‘perfect’ conveys a sense of completeness and fullness; therefore, perfect love is whole, full, not lacking anything, or omitting anyone, etc.).  

Now going back to the point I opened with regarding those feelings of inadequacy, the truth of the matter is that when we read today’s passage and compare ourselves to a God who loves humanity perfectly, we are supposed to feel a sense of inadequacy.  We are also supposed to feel like our definitions of and abilities to love are lacking.  But guess what, when we start to feel badly about ourselves, the beauty of the Good News kicks in.  That sense of inadequacy that we feel is designed to bring us to Christ, because when we realize that we don’t have it put together, or aren’t perfect, or even as loving as we know we should be, it humbles us to look somewhere outside of ourselves and namely to God.  We are supposed to look to Jesus whose life was perfect and whose death perfectly covers all of our shortcomings, and confess, “God my ability to love is poor and inadequate, but I trust in the Savior who loved me and the world, adequately.” 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for accepting me as I am, in Christ.  Thank You for loving me so unconditionally.  Whenever I feel inadequate about myself for whatever reasons, may the Spirit of God remind me how good I have in God’s abundant grace.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Revelation 21-22

November 12, Friday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Pastor Mark Chun who pastors Radiance Christian Church in S. F.   He studied biology at University California, San Diego and completed his Master of Divinity at Talbot School of Theology.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“The Legacy You Want to Leave Behind”

2 Kings 17: 1-6 (NIV)

In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea son of Elah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned nine years. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, but not like the kings of Israel who preceded him. 3 Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up to attack Hoshea, who had been Shalmaneser’s vassal and had paid him tribute. 4 But the king of Assyria discovered that Hoshea was a traitor, for he had sent envoys to So king of Egypt, and he no longer paid tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore Shalmaneser seized him and put him in prison. 5 The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes

This passage introduces us to King Hosea, whose place in history is that he was the last king of Israel; and on his watch, the capital city of Samaria fell.  The description of his legacy was that he was evil in the sight of the Lord, with the only caveat being that he was, at least, not as wicked as the kings before him.  This is not exactly a glowing endorsement of his life.  In truth, all of us want to leave something behind that will be remembered by future generations.  I believe this is a sign that all of humanity is born with eternity in our hearts.  

However, the Scriptures remind us that there is a right way and a wrong way of leaving behind a legacy.  People in the world like to think that through the power and wealth they accumulate in this life they can leave a legacy, which will prolong their influence and cause them to be remembered.  History is filled with the accounts of powerful men who tried to live on through monuments, great tombs, and stories of grandeur. Though some are still remembered in dusty books, they are mostly forgotten, their monuments destroyed, their tombs robbed, and their stories unknown. 

Although history is rife with the failures of men, this is not to say that we cannot leave a legacy or that trying doing so is foolish. On the contrary, it should be our greatest aim to leave behind us a godly heritage.  So what kind of life story should we seek to prepare? The Scriptures teach us that a truly divine legacy is one of righteous deeds, influence for good, and a pure soul that will live forever with God. 

Prayer: Father, You have placed eternity in our hearts for a reason.  Help us to remember that what we do in this life actually does matter, and the good we do for the sake of the gospel will build an eternal legacy before You. Show me today how to glorify you in my thoughts, words, and deeds.   Teach me Your ways so that I may one day hear You say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Revelation 20


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 112:1-9: Praise the Lord. Blessed are those who fear the Lord, who find great delight in his commands. 2 Their children will be mighty in the land; the generation of the upright will be blessed. 3 Wealth and riches are in their houses, and their righteousness endures forever. 4 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. 5 Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice. 6 Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. 7 They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. 8 Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes. 9 They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor, their righteousness endures forever; their horn will be lifted high in honor.

Questions to Consider:

  1. What are the conditions of God’s blessings?
  2. What is the specific nature of these blessings?  
  3. What is the source of our security?

Notes

  1. God’s blessings are for those who fear Him and find great delight in His commands.  We don’t want to fall into the danger of espousing a salvation based on good deeds and works; but at the same time, many of God’s other blessings are reserved on the condition of obedience.  
  2. The specific nature of these blessings is that the godly and their children will experience prosperity, peace, and goodness in their lives.  In this way, those who are gracious and compassionate are remembered through the lives of the next generation.  We don’t want to fall into the dangers of a health and wealth gospel, but material blessings are a part of God’s reward for the upright.  
  3. During difficult times, the source of security for the godly is that they will be remembered by God forever.  They will not live in fear of bad news because of their unwavering trust in the Lord. 

Evening Reflection

If you were to die today, how would you be remembered by others? How would you be remembered by God? Would you pass on to your children just a bunch of stuff, some money, and some fading memories? Or would you pass on knowledge of God and a life well-lived?   As one pastor stated clearly, “Let each of us determine that we will do more in the days ahead to leave a legacy of righteousness.”    

November 11, Thursday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Doug Tritton, was first posted on August 6, 2015.   A graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.), Doug is the UC site pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia. 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Just This One Time”

2 Kings 5:19-23

He said to him, “Go in peace.” But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance, Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, “See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the Lord lives, I will run after him and get something from him.” So Gehazi followed Naaman. And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him and said, “Is all well?” And he said, “All is well. My master has sent me to say, ‘There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two changes of clothing.’” And Naaman said, “Be pleased to accept two talents.” And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of clothing, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi.

In this passage, Elisha had just healed the Syrian man Naaman of leprosy. Upon being healed, Naaman requested to give a gift to Elisha, but Elisha refused. But Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, was not so willing to say no to a gift. More than likely Gehazi was thinking, Elisha spared this Syrian man, this oppressor of Israel, so of course we deserve a gift from him! Gehazi then proceeds to tell a story of the family of prophets in need of silver and clothes, and Naaman quickly agrees to provide. Gehazi, taking advantage of Naaman’s generosity, receives the gift for himself.

On the surface, we may look at this and think, Wow, what greed! But remember, Gehazi was traveling with Elisha, a man who did not live an easy life. They likely had very little possessions as well as their lives being quite tiring and difficult. For once, someone was willing to give to them, to provide some much needed resources—but Elisha refused. Gehazi, eyes wide with anticipation, found disappointment once again. Yet, this time, he would take matters into his own hands because, as Gehazi likely believed, they deserved this gift.

Have you ever had a long battle, whether a season of emotional struggle or a period of difficult circumstances? In those seasons, we often can justify giving into temptation, giving into self-centeredness. We may think, Just this one time, it is ok for me to feed my desires. I deserve this. Self-justification is much easier in a time of struggle. But remember, our whole lives are a battle. This world is a battle and when we give in, we give room for the enemy. We are called to stand firm in all seasons, to stand firm without ever giving in, regardless of circumstances.

Today, let’s search ourselves. Are we facing any struggles that we use to justify greed, to justify selfishness, to justify self-centeredness? Let’s release those to God and pray for the strength to, again, stand firm in Him.

Prayer: Lord, thank You for being the giver of all strength. I know You always fight for me. Help me to stand firm, knowing that You are my shield and my strength. Let me be girded in the full armor of God that I may stand strong until I see You face to face. May temptation and selfishness have no way in me, for my heart is Yours.

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 19


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 6:10-13: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does it mean to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might”?
  2. What do we fight against? What does this mean?
  3. What will enable us to stand firm?

Notes

  1. Being strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might means that we do not find strength in ourselves. How easy it is to try to take matters into our own hands and fight for ourselves. That is what culture tells us to do: be strong, be independent, and protect yourself. But true strength only comes when we see ourselves as wholly dependent on God
  2. We fight against the powers of darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil. This means we do not fight against other people. Yes, confrontation is necessary with others; yes, people can hurt us. But we are all sinners in need of grace. Let us not make other people our enemies, but rather remember we have one Enemy who has already been conquered by Christ on the cross.
  3. We stand firm when we put on the full armor of God! This requires surrender, letting go of our own strength and trusting in God’s strength and protection. Only He can truly protect us in the battles we face in our lives.

Evening Reflection

Reflect on your current circumstances. Have your present circumstances made you more self-centered? Take some time to repent of any self-centeredness and pray for your heart to be reoriented to God.  Pray that God would provide His strength that you may stand firm in every trial.

November 10, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on July 29, 2015, is provided by Ulysses Wang who pastors Renewal Church in Sunnyvale, California. Pastor Ulysses is a graduate of New York University (BA) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.).  

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“We Have All That We Need, Now”

2 Kings 2:15-18

The company of the prophets from Jericho, who were watching, said, “The spirit of Elijah is resting on Elisha.” And they went to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 “Look,” they said, “we your servants have fifty able men. Let them go and look for your master. Perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has picked him up and set him down on some mountain or in some valley.”  “No,” Elisha replied, “do not send them.” 17 But they persisted until he was too embarrassed to refuse. So he said, “Send them.” And they sent fifty men, who searched for three days but did not find him. 18 When they returned to Elisha, who was staying in Jericho, he said to them, “Didn’t I tell you not to go?”

Have you ever longed to be one of Jesus’ twelve disciples?  To have walked, talked and eaten with Him?  I am sure that most Christians have, and who could blame them?  The idea of seeing Christ in the flesh, witnessing His miracles, hearing all of His teachings firsthand – these are the things that dreams are made of.  I bet that’s similar to how the “company of the prophets” felt after Elijah was taken up to heaven.  Yes, they recognized that “the Spirit of Elijah [was now] resting on Elisha,” but there was something within them that still longed for Elijah – his ministry, his power, and maybe even just for the man himself.  Therefore they insisted on organizing a search party to recover their spiritual icon.  There efforts, however, would be in vain, as God had another plan – His work would be continued and would lack nothing through Elijah’s successor Elisha.

We have much to learn from this story, for it is our story.  Jesus said in John 16:7, “But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away.”  How in the world could Jesus’ leaving ever be a good thing?  Because, as He continues on, “Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”  The Advocate is none other than the Holy Spirit.  If Jesus didn’t leave, the Holy Spirit never would have come, and if the Spirit never came, He could not dwell in the hearts of all believers (1 Cor 3:16; Rom 8:11).  But because He came and dwells in our hearts, God’s ministry to this world continues through us, broken vessels though we are, yet filled with the power of God.  In fact, it was not hyperbole when Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).  Just as Elisha’s ministry did indeed reflect the fullness of Elijah’s, so does ours reflect the power of a Christ-inaugurated kingdom.

Because “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3), we do not need to envy the past, but can be excited about what God will do through us in this generation.  God the Spirit walks and talks with us.  Through communion we enjoy table fellowship with Christ.  We have everything we need.  Let’s do this.

Prayer: God, give me the faith to believe that the story continues with me.  Help me to be more aware of Your presence, with me in the Person of God the Spirit, so that I can believe for great things and seek them out.  Fill me with the power of the Spirit to overcome the temptations that may come my way and to enable me to shine Your light wherever I am.  Amen!

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 18


LUNCH BREAK STUDY

Read Acts 6:8-15: Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen. 10 But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke. 11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.” 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Questions to Consider

  1. How would you describe the manner in which witnesses against Stephen were produced as well as the nature of the accusations?
  2. How might you have felt or reacted if you were in Stephen’s shoes?
  3. According to v.15, how did Stephen react?  What can we learn from him?

Notes

  1. The witnesses were “false” and the accusations egregious distortions of Jesus’ teachings, abused to the benefit of Stephan’s accusers.
  2. A sense of anger, indignation, or injustice?
  3. No matter how we are wronged, no matter the injustice we experience, can we face it with “the face of an angel”?  This doesn’t necessarily mean succumbing to whatever evil befalls us, but it does mean approaching every situation with love, forgiveness and blamelessness.

EVENING REFLECTION

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” – Psalm 4:8

November 9, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional is a reprint of Kate Moon’s blog originally posted on August 25, 2015.  Kate continues to serve the Lord in E. Asia. 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“What Self-Deception Looks Like”

2 Kings 11:14

She looked and there was the king, standing by the pillar, as the custom was. The officers and the trumpeters were beside the king, and all the people of the land were rejoicing and blowing trumpets.  Then Athaliah tore her robes and called out, “Treason! Treason!”

When King Joash at age seven retakes his rightful place on his father’s throne, the people of the land were rejoicing, but Athaliah cried out, “Treason!”

That she is calling this situation “treason” is so ironic because it was she who had actually committed treason when she murdered all the possible heirs she could find and seized the throne for herself six years prior.  And yet she had come to believe that she was the rightful ruler of the land and that all these others were currently in the wrong.  She was deluded and deceived.

It is a sad story, but could it be that we are sometimes the same?  Getting upset at what is happening to us and blaming others, not being able to see that we are the ones who are actually in the wrong?  

The Bible tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things, and each of us is susceptible to self-deception.  Do we have someone in our lives before whom we can humble ourselves and ask whether they see anything gone awry, either in our lives or the way we see the world?

Prayer: Dear Lord, help me to see things as You do, properly and not distortedly.  Help me not to be deceived about who I am and what I’ve done; I don’t want to be deluded.  If there is any area in which I am in the wrong, help me to see it clearly and repent.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 17


Lunch Break Study 

Read Jeremiah 17:9-11: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?  10 ‘I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.’  11 Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay is the man who gains riches by unjust means.  When his life is half gone, they will desert him, and in the end he will prove to be a fool.

Questions to Consider

1. What is the answer to the problem of a deceitful heart? If we can’t trust our own hearts, who can we trust (v. 10)?

2. How does God reward a person’s actions (v. 10)?

3. What happens to the person who “gains riches by unjust means” (v. 11)?  What warning or comfort does this truth bring to us?

Notes

1. Though our very own hearts can deceive us, God cannot be deceived.  We can trust Him to judge rightly and should turn to Him.

2. God examines that person’s heart and mind—their true motives.  God also rewards us fairly, according to what we deserve.

3. The riches will not stay with him (just as Athaliah who seized power by unjust means lost it in the end).  We are to be careful to live right lives and can even take comfort in the face of injustice done to us, knowing that God will bring about justice in the end.


Evening Reflection

Was there a situation today in which I was tempted to blame others?  Did I ask God to shine His light into that situation and check my heart to make sure there wasn’t any wrongdoing on my part that I needed to address instead?

November 8, Monday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, first posted on April 3, 2015, 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

“The Sufferings of Christ”

Isaiah 53:1-12

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
    And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
    a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

4 Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?
9 And they made his grave with the wicked
    and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
    make many to be accounted righteous,
    and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.

What we read here in Isaiah 53 does not sound “good” at all. This servant of God, despised, rejected, full of sorrow and grief, stricken, smitten, afflicted, pierced, crushed, oppressed, cut off, is like a lamb that is led to the slaughter. How can this be good? This sounds brutal and harsh. We wouldn’t wish this pain and death upon anyone, much less an innocent man, undeserving of any of it.  But we celebrate this day where an innocent man was horrifically beaten, unjustly tried and convicted, rejected by his friends and executed in the more tortuous of ways.  And still, we call this day “good.”  How can this be?

We call this day Good Friday because we remember our loving Savior showing us the full extent of His amazing love for us: “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).    We were the ones who were guilty.  We were deserving of this punishment and shame.  We should have been lambs led to slaughter.  This day is so good because Jesus took the punishment of our guilt upon Himself, and by His sacrifice we were set free.  Today is Good Friday because this is Good News, the best news there could ever be – Jesus died on a cross for us so that we could be set free from our sins, given new life, given eternal life with our loving King.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for being so good to us.  Today we remember Your love shown to us on that cross.  We were so undeserving and so unworthy, but still you loved us and laid down your life for us.  There is nothing we can do or say to repay you.  All I can do is say, “Thank you, Jesus!”  In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 16


Lunch Bible Study

Read Romans 5:6-11: For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Questions to Consider

  1. How does Romans describe our spiritual states before Jesus?
  2. What do we have as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross?
  3. Why did Jesus Christ die for us?  

Notes

  1. We are contrasted with good or righteous people.  Paul describes us as weak, ungodly sinners, and enemies of God.  We are people who are undeserving of someone dying for us.
  2. We are justified by His blood.  We were enemies before, but now we are reconciled with Him.  
  3. Very simply, Jesus died for us because of His love for us.  

Evening Reflection

Take some time to remember what Jesus has done for you.  What does the cross of Jesus mean to you?  How has it changed your life?  Take some time tonight to pray and thank Jesus for His sacrifice for you.

November 7, Sunday

REPOST Today’s AMI Devotional, provided by Pastor Peter Yoon of Kairos Christian Church in San Diego, was first posted on April 12, 2015.  Peter is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for this Morning

“Godly Wisdom”

1 Sam. 25:32-33a; 39b 

And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! 33 Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you . . .” 39 . . . Then David sent and spoke to Abigail, to take her as his wife.

Interestingly, during the years that David spent fleeing from Saul, he meets a wonderful woman named Abigail and eventually marries her.  I know that 1 Samuel 25 was not written to provide the readers with advice on relationships or marriage; rather, it shows the bigger picture of how God is building up David’s family, military forces, and political alliances. Political marriages were common at the time, and by his marriage to Abigail, David was making important ties with influential families in Judah. And David’s kingship would be attributed to the support of the tribe of Judah, not from the existing royal court. The writer does not say so, but he plainly saw David’s marriage to Abigail as part of God’s plan for him. (Carson, D.A, New Bible Commentary) 

Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that the writer takes time to develop a narrative of how David and Abigail end up getting married. And in the narrative, it’s hard to overlook the quality that is highlighted in Abigail: her sense of “discretion”—this Hebrew word טַ֫עַם (ṭǎʹ·ʿǎm) means “judgment,discretion, discernment.” Concerning the quick thinking actions of Abigail in preventing disaster to her family, commentators of 1 Samuel describe Abigail using words such as: full of wisdom, sensible, prudent, and perceptive. Personally, having been married for 15 years now, I can testify that my wife has often practiced good sensibility in situations and with people, which has helped us in avoiding some negative circumstances in life.

But in contrast, Nabal, Abigail’s husband, behaved as a fool and almost brought about disaster to his family, had it not been for Abigail’s incredible discretion. We all know that we ought to choose the path of Abigail, but if we are honest with ourselves, more often than we’d like we show ourselves to be a Nabal. Due to our sinfulness, we choose anger over patience; slander over silence; lying over truth-telling; and bitterness over forgiveness. No wonder some of our relationships end up in disaster. It can make any of us cynical to relationships. 

The good news is that we don’t have to swim in that cynicism, for Jesus offers us both hope and grace. He gets to the root of all relationship disasters, which stems from our hearts, not so much our foolish behaviors. Jesus works in our hearts to make changes that help us display more of Abigail’s “discretion.”Eventually, practicing that godly wisdom helps us bear fruit in our relationships. Ask the Lord for His wisdom because He promises to give it generously to those who ask (James 1:5). 

Prayer: Lord, give me godly wisdom because I live more like Nabal than Abigail.  Help me to discern how to apply the knowledge I have in ways that will glorify your name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 15

November 6, Saturday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on February 2, 2014.  

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Figuring out Why Bad Things Happen in Life”

Job 1:21

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,and naked I will depart.[c]The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;may the name of the Lord be praised.

Debi Lane was 41-year-old when she went for a routine thyroid test at a hospital in Arizona.  But instead of a small dose of mildly radioactive iodine, the doctors unwittingly injected a mega dose of radiation normally given to thyroid cancer patients.  As a result, her chance of developing cancer increased more than four percent every year.  Petrified, this mother of four children said, “What about my children’s college?  It looks like I’m not going to be here for them.”

So, was she so bad that something like this was bound to happen?  One of Job’s comforters who said (4:8), “Those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it,” certainly would agree; so would Christ’s disciples.  One day, upon seeing a blind man, they asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (Jn. 9:2).   

Which side would Christ choose?  Neither.  Perhaps, he might first say to his men, Stop thinking like children but in your thinking be adults (1 Cor. 14:20), and then add, “The reason  good or bad things happen in life is complex; therefore, avoid a simplistic explanation that may make sense to you but will not help anyone, particularly the ones suffering.  

In truth, the Bible does not offer “one-size fits all” type of explanation.   Some sicknesses indeed are divinely permitted due to specific sins (James 5:16; Jn. 5:14).  Mothers who consume drugs or alcohol run the risk of affecting the health of their unborn.  When and if that happens, parental culpability cannot easily be dismissed.  But Christ’s response to his men wasn’t that: “Neither this man nor his parents sinned but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (Jn. 9:3).  

Even so, they did sin, for all sin and that’s how death and sickness entered the world.  No one is born blind without the Fall, but here, the blindness wasn’t caused by any specific sin committed by him or his parents.  And God allows this as an occasion to demonstrate His power so that people are led to trust Him.  The story of Job also teaches that painful circumstances may be allowed to test our faith in order that we may become mature and complete (James 1:4).

There is one more:  It’s called “Life.”  Lane’s story reminds me of thousands of German children born with severe physical deformities in the 1950s because of the over the counter drug their mothers took to alleviate morning sickness.  What can we say to them?  

Everyone will die one day of something, whether body malfunction or accident.  So when we encounter friends and relatives inflicted with a serious illness, instead of praying only for their healing, why not also pray that they will long to be with Christ in heaven? (Phil 1:23)Cheer up!  God is good.

Prayer: Lord, remind me to always appreciate every moment of my life.  Always remind me that one day this life will come to its end and I will face eternity.  Thank you that you have led me to place my trust in you.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 13-14