July 7, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on March 3, 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 the Morning

“Success without Integrity or Integrity without Success: Your Move”

1 Samuel 11:6-14 (NIV)

When Saul heard their words, the Spirit of God came powerfully upon him, and he burned with anger. 7 He took a pair of oxen, cut them into pieces, and sent the pieces by messengers throughout Israel, proclaiming, “This is what will be done to the oxen of anyone who does not follow Saul and Samuel.” Then the terror of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out together as one. 8 When Saul mustered them at Bezek, the men of Israel numbered three hundred thousand and those of Judah thirty thousand. 

9 They told the messengers who had come, “Say to the men of Jabesh Gilead, ‘By the time the sun is hot tomorrow, you will be rescued.’ ” When the messengers went and reported this to the men of Jabesh, they were elated. 10 They said to the Ammonites, “Tomorrow we will surrender to you, and you can do to us whatever you like.”  11 The next day Saul separated his men into three divisions; during the last watch of the night they broke into the camp of the Ammonites and slaughtered them until the heat of the day. Those who survived were scattered, so that no two of them were left together. 12 The people then said to Samuel, “Who was it that asked, ‘Shall Saul reign over us?’ Turn these men over to us so that we may put them to death.” 13 But Saul said, “No one will be put to death today, for this day the Lord has rescued Israel.” 14 Then Samuel said to the people, “Come, let us go to Gilgal and there renew the kingship.” 15 So all the people went to Gilgal and made Saul king in the presence of the Lord. There they sacrificed fellowship offerings before the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites held a great celebration. 

Some years ago, I had a discussion with a friend on whether if would be preferable to have a large ministry whose leaders were powerfully gifted but lacking in character, or to have a small ministry where the leadership was high in character but not as visibly anointed.  It was a fun conversation because I think we both knew the right answer.  But admittedly, it was difficult not to entertain the thought of being highly successful without having to pay the cost of growing in integrity.  In a perfect world, we would want the best of both scenarios—high character leaders impacting large numbers of people with their anointing; but in an imperfect world, you can have one without the other.  

In Saul’s first act as king, we see that he leads Israel to a resounding victory over their enemies, the Ammonites.  In the process, he appears to be more than a capable leader who is able to rally the people to a just cause, and coming up with a brilliant strategy to ensure the conquest of the enemy.   Even afterwards, he shows mercy towards those who questioned his right to be king.  On the surface, this appears to be the best possible beginning for the new monarch.  Perhaps, the Israelites were justified in asking God to give them a king and that everything would turn out well after all.  

However, just because something appears to look good on the surface does not mean that trouble is not brewing underneath.  What is even more disturbing in this passage is that Saul is described as being empowered by the Spirit of God to accomplish this specific task of leading Israel into battle.  I think this is one of the saddest facts regarding the life of Saul, because even as the Holy Spirit worked through him, the Spirit of God never worked in him.  In reflection, given a choice, I realized that having a relationship with God through the Holy Spirit and yielding to His intimate work of inner transformation is more valuable than simply having some powerful gifts of leadership.  Remarkably, when we ask for the former, God graciously gives us the latter.  

Prayer: Lord, it is easy to fall into the temptation of success without integrity and character.  There are always shortcuts in life.  Help me to yield to Your Holy Spirit as He brings about conviction of sin and leads me into the righteousness of Christ.  Also, help me to use the gifts of the Spirit to impact people—great and small—and to be faithful with every opportunity that comes my way.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Joshua 7


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 7:15-23 (NIV): Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21 Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?” 23 Then I will tell them plainly, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” 

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the good fruit that is the evidence of a true relationship with Christ?
  2. How can people who don’t have a relationship with Jesus perform the mighty works described in verse 22?
  3. What is the end result of doing ministry in the name of Jesus without having a personal relationship with Jesus?  

Notes

  1. The good fruit that Jesus speaks of is a life of obedience to God.  It doesn’t matter how big your church is or how many miracles you have performed. Without personal devotion and love towards God, these things are actually in vain.  
  2. Not surprisingly, we see many people who don’t have the right motives, using the Spirit of God and the name of Christ for personal gain.  There are two possible answers:  Like Balaam (Numbers 24:2), God can choose to give His Spirit to non-believers to fulfill His purposes; or these signs could be performed through a deceiving spirit.  
  3. There is absolutely no benefit to doing ministry or good works in the name of Jesus without a saving relationship with Him.  The end result is eternal separation from the One whose name was used for selfish desires and to promote personal gain.  

Evening Reflection

In our modern world, it is so easy to judge everything by the outward appearance, and to be tempted by the world’s standards of value and success.  In what ways are you attracted to outer success, whether in your choice of churches, career, or even relationships?   How can you learn to see through the eyes of God and judge people not by the outward appearance, but by their inward character?  

July 6, Tuesday

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“God’s Concern for His Name”

Mal. 1:11

My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to me, because my name will be great among the nations,” says the Lord Almighty.”

Family honor should matter, but too much emphasis on this can result in something bizarre or even violent.  For example, at a wedding ceremony of his son, the proud father (a pastor) abruptly announces a prayer huddle in front but just with his sons who bear his name, which excluded the bride.   Standing all alone, the bride perhaps wonders whether it is too late to back out.  

In some Islamic countries, brothers are willing to kill their sister if her behavior is deemed dishonorable.  While we can agree that “a good name is more desirable than great riches” (Prov. 22:1), these guys are  way too much.

God is also concerned about his name and He doesn’t like it when it is dishonored.  One grievance against King David was the effect of his adultery with Bathsheba among the Canaanites: “Because by doing this you made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt” (2 Sam. 12:14).  The grievance against the Israelites living abroad whose lives were undistinguishable from the Gentile sinners, despite “brag[ging] about [their] relationship to God” (Rom. 2:17), was no different: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you” (Rom. 2:24).  

Is the motivation behind protecting the family honor the same as God’s concern for upholding His name?   Definitely no.   The families are mostly concerned about how others view them, usually a self-flattering portrayal that others do not see.  However, God’s concern for his name stems from His love for people among the nations.  The Lord knows that the defamation of His name by those who claim to follow Him will prompt the nations to think that the God of the Bible is no different than the capricious, even immoral gods whom they grew up worshiping.  Thus, they will neither seek nor believe God when He is finally presented to them.  It’s their loss as well as God’s.  

As you start this day, don’t just focus on you and your family, but think about the kingdom.  Today, it snowed here.  As I was shoveling snow out of the driveway, I decided to clear out some snow for my neighbor.  They are not believers but they know we are.  They thank me.  I hope the name of our God was exalted just a little bit.   Now, go and shovel some “snow” so that God’s name may be exalted.   

Prayer: Glorious God, how great and excellent is your name.  We exalt your name on high and the name of your Son Jesus, the only name through which we can go to the Father.  Lord, I want to make your name great at the place where I live and work so that others may desire you and ultimately be found in Christ.   Motivate me and empower me to do something today that would make your name to stand out.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today Joshua 6 


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Pet. 2:12, 15:Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. . . . For this is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”

Jeremiah 4:1-2: “If you, Israel, will return, then return to me,” declares the Lord. “If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way
you swear, ‘As surely as the Lord lives,’ then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is one main factor that causes us to be ineffective in serving God and furthering his kingdom?
  2. In what way did the failure of the Israelites to distinguish themselves among the nations hurt those very nations?
  3. What is the best way to distinguish ourselves from the world so that what we do gives further credence to the greatness of our God?

Notes

  1. We become co-opted by the values and practices of the secular world, thereby losing our Christian distinction; that is, our saltiness.  As a result, we become good for nothing as far as representing God.  In fact, we may become recipients of ridicule by the skeptics of the Christian faith. 
  2. Israel’s wayward ways, in effect, blocked God’s channel of blessing for the nations since her undistinguishable life prompted the nations not to hold God in high regard.  They thought, “Why bother seeking  the God of Israel when these Israelites prefer our god and our ways?”
  3. Nothing is more powerful that leading a credible public life, backed by a corresponding private life, consisting of good and kind deeds performed “with gentleness and respect” (1 Pet. 3:15). 

Evening Reflection

Did you have an opportunity to exalt God’s name today?  Wrap up your day by briefly journaling what happened today.  Pray for a more effective tomorrow.

July 5, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on February 20, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“What We Say Matters”

Malachi 2:17 (ESV)

“You have wearied the Lord with your words. But you say, ‘How have we wearied him?’ By saying, ‘Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them.’  Or by asking, ‘Where is the God of justice?’”

Malachi 3:13-5 (ESV)

“Your words have been hard against me, says the Lord. But you say, ‘How have we spoken against you?’ 14 You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of hosts? 15 And now we call the arrogant blessed. Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.’”

A young pastor, having grown impatient with the travel agent who again put him on hold, murmured in frustration, “What a dork!”  He thought that the agent was away from the phone.  She wasn’t.  Oops.  Who, among us, hasn’t done the same?

The words that wearied God in Malachi’s time are awful but none worse than these:  “Now you have rejected us. . . .  All this happened to us, though we have not . . . been false to your covenant. . . . Awake, O Lord!  Why do you sleep?” A psalmist said that (Ps. 9a, 17b, 23a).  “Know that God has wronged me. . . . Though I cry, ‘I’ve been wronged!’  I get no response; though I call for help, there is no justice.’”  Job said that (19:6a, 7).  But they pale in comparison to what the frustrated the prophet Jeremiah said (20:7a), “O Lord, you deceived me, and I was deceived.”

These are biting words aimed at God’s very character and “men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matt. 12:36).   Even so, God, in His mercy, gives us opportunities to amend our errors before that day.  After all, the One who knows “all men” and “what [i]s in a man” (Jn. 2:24, 5) understands that we are weak, and that when pushed and shoved, our words turn careless and thoughtless.  But He also knows that if we keep on saying them, before long, we may actually believe what we say, which is not good.  

So the Lord will gently remind us through the words of Scripture or caring brothers, or the conviction of the Holy Spirit, that He isn’t like that.  Thus, God, to help Job realize his error, begins the dialogue by saying (38:2), “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words of without knowledge?”  By the end, the penitent Job says (42:3), “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to speak.”

Today, be mindful of using your tongue to bear witness of God’s wonderful character to unbelieving friends or coworkers like, “God is good,” “God loves and cares for you,” “God is in control,” etc.

Prayer: My Father, the one area where I have erred the most is what I often say with my mouth.  Instead of praising and thanking you, I complain, criticize and even gossip.  What can I say, Lord?  Forgiven me.  Make me aware of the great importance of using my words to honor you whether I am at work, church or home.  So I say now, “Thank you, my glorious and wonderful God; my soul exalts you.”  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Joshua 5


Lunch Break Study

Read James 3:2, 6, 9-10 (ESV): “For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. . . . Cross references:

  • James 3:2 : 1 Kgs. 8:46; Prov. 20:9; Eccles. 7:20; 1 John 1:8
  • James 3:2 : [Matt. 12:37]
  • James 3:2 : See ch. 1:26

6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.  9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” 

James 1:9 (ESV): “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

Eph. 4:25, 9: “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. . . . 29 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Describe the situation with our mouth: what is so ironic about how we use it?
  2. What are some practical ways to limit our careless and thoughtless words from hurting others and ultimately ourselves?
  3. How should we use our words instead?  How have you been doing with your spoken words?  

Notes

  1. With our mouth, we praise our God as well as speak badly of others (even God sometimes).  Those who think they don’t commit many sins must have laryngitis because sooner or later, we say things that hurt others as well as dishonor God.  It’s like the law through which we become conscious of sin (Rom. 3:20); our words make us conscious of sin.  So cry out, “Lord, forgive me, for I’m a sinner!”
  2. Listen well; speak slowly, meaning think before you talk; limit your words.  Don’t talk nonstop because sooner or later you will end up saying what you will regret.
  3. We should edify others with words of encouragement as well as through constructive criticism: truthful words, not empty flattery; fair evaluation, not personal attack. 

Evening Reflection

How did you use your tongue today?  Was God honored and others uplifted, or was it the other way around.  Lift up a prayer to the Lord.

July 4, Sunday

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought is an updated version of AMI QT Devotional first posted on August 8, 2013.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend 

“The Three Prayers”

Luke 3:4-6, 16

As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God’. . . John answered them all, saying, ‘I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.’”

Repentance has a number of different purposes.  Prior to seeing God’s salvation, true repentance is needed.  In Jesus’ days, many failed to see God’s salvation through Jesus.  Some religious leaders were relying on their ethnicity and religious heritage (v. 8), and failed to repent.  When the Holy Spirit reminds us of our wrongdoings, we must not procrastinate; we need to do something about it.  

Pray that you will take immediate action followed by repentance in order to see God’s salvation (vv. 10-14).

It is comforting to know that no matter what we do, there is a limitation in what we do before God, and it would not suffice for God’s glory.  For this reason, more than the external ritual, the true baptizer Jesus Christ has to come.  He is the one who will baptize us with the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:16).  

Take time to pray asking the Holy Spirit to touch you in order to bear the fruit of repentance.

What is “good news”?  Basically, that which we are incapable of doing, God provides the remedy for us (Matt. 19:26).  We cannot truly repent of our sinful ways with our own strength; it is only possible when there is the work of the Holy Spirit in us.  This is the reason why the prophet John concluded with the following exhortation: “And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them” (Luke 3:18).  

Pray for the people around you who may be struggling with sin and need to be liberated.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to take immediate actions followed by repentance.  The Spirt of God, touch me so that I may bear fruits of repentance.  Lord, I pray for the liberation of sin-bound people around me.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Joshua 4

July 3, Saturday

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor Young Kim of Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia, was originally posted on June 23, 2013.  Pastor Young is a graduate of University of Illinois (BS), Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Westminster Theological Seminary (MA). 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Art of Being a Parent”

Proverbs 23:13, 14

“Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.”

I wonder what today’s counselors would say about this passage. 

Like any parent, I love my kids.  I laugh with them and I play with them, but I also discipline them.  I try to be a happy and holy dad, trying to have as much fun with them as possible, but they know that if they misbehave, they will experience the “wrath” of dad.  And that is the art of being a parent.

I pray that my kids will remember the laughter we have shared, but also, at the same time, they will have a healthy fear of dad when they are disobedient.  I hope I do not sound scary.  I don’t think my kids are scared of me, unless they do something wrong . 

So then, let us spend some time praying for children.  If you are a parent pray, for your kids. Write a letter to them; I do this from time to time.  I spend time writing down how much I love them and what my prayers are for them.  Sometimes I send it to them and other times I just keep it in my journal. 

If you are single, pray for a niece or nephew.  Maybe there are children at your church; pray for them as well for their parents, for they need great wisdom in raising their children. 

If you don’t know any kids, go and get to know some of them; they will brighten your day and next time you will have someone to pray for. 

Prayer: Jesus, give me wisdom to raise my children in the love and fear of God.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Joshua 2-3

July 2, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor David Kwon who heads Journey Community Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, was first posted on November 15, 2013.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (BS) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning 

“Our Immense God”

Psalm 104:1-9 (NIV)

Praise the Lord, my soul. Lord my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty. 2 The Lord wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent 3 and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. 4 He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. 5 He set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved. 6 You covered it with the watery depths as with a garment; the waters stood above the mountains. 7 But at your rebuke the waters fled, at the sound of your thunder they took to flight; 8 they flowed over the mountains, they went down into the valleys, to the place you assigned for them. 9 You set a boundary they cannot cross; never again will they cover the earth. 

One of the things I’ve learned about God over the years is that God is really BIG. And when I read through the Psalms, I see that many the psalmists have come to this realization as well. How can we describe our great God? What’s he like? Where does he live? They seem like silly questions, but for our finite little minds, tangible representations of our seemingly intangible God can be quite helpful. 

In Psalm 104, the psalmist is essentially asking this same question: How can I describe our great God? As many of us do, he turns to nature for the answer. What is God like? Well if God had a robe it would be fashioned from light. And if God had a dwelling it would be the entire sky and the foundations would be the whole of the sea. What about His transportation? Well if God were to need to get from place to place, He’d ride the clouds and the wind. And what happens when God speaks? The foundations of the earth are set and the waters fall into place. 

What a BIG God we serve! While no single metaphor or personification will ever do Him justice, we can turn to nature for dim pictures of his majesty and to one another for shadows of his image. And as we do, we get a fuller picture of our really big God. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I cannot wrap my brain around the fact that You, being such an immense God, care about such an insignificant being like me.  All I got left to say is to proclaim, “Thank You.”  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Joshua 1


Lunch Break Study

Read Mark 4:35-41 (NIV): That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

A few years ago, Rick Warren released a Bible study program called “40 Days in the Word” in which he outlines numerous methods to study and understand scripture. One of these methods is called “Picture It” and is intended to help readers get the most out of narrative texts (stories, like those found in the Gospels) like the one found in our passage for this afternoon. In a few steps, Warren encourages readers to picture the biblical scene in their mind (sights, smells, tastes, etc.) and engage their imagination asking questions like: What would I have been thinking at this point? How would I have felt? How would I have responded? 

For the less imaginative among us, this method can be quite painful. But I think it’s helpful, especially as we look at the passage for today. 

Questions to Consider

So, let’s try to picture it: you’re on the boat (and not a super advanced ship like we have today, but one according to the 2000-years-ago technology they had back then). You are in the middle of a really big lake and in the midst of a seriously fierce storm. You are wet with seawater and in serious need of some Dramamine (one of the disciples is hurling over the side of the boat… he’s not so used to being on the water… maybe that would be you). The former fishermen among you have tried everything they know to do but are now at their wits end and are convinced you’re all facing certain death. There is really noting to be done but to bear down and wait for impact. Someone goes to get Jesus; maybe he’ll know what to tell us to do. Jesus comes up, maybe a bit groggy, turns to the stormy waters and says, “Chill out! Right now.” (Or at least that’s how I imagine it…) And even more ridiculous than His solution to the problem, is that the waters actually respond, like a shamed child headed to time out. 

1. What must they have been thinking? 

2. What would you have thought? 

3. Spend some time mediating on the greatness of God.

Notes

1. In various places in the Old Testament, particularly in the Psalms (like the one we read this morning), God is personified as one who rebukes tumultuous waters. He is just that big and His power is just that great that nature moves at His command. Yet our great, big God somehow (I get a bit of a headache trying to parse out exactly how it all went down) took upon Himself human flesh and became a man. Throughout this man’s life, a lot of people missed His “God-ness” because He seemed so small – a regular old Joe, with a common name, in a lowly town, with a motley crew – and everyone knows that God is really big. But even when our understanding of the greatness of God was baffled by His ability to be the Jesus walking on earth, the rest of nature did not seem to be confused and responded as they always had when He spoke – with obedience. 

2. Our God is really Big – so big and great that nature obeys him. But he is also so small that He can walk with us everyday. Just like the old hymn says: And he walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, None other has ever known.” (In the Garden, C. Austin Miles) 

3. Maybe you can picture the scene from the passage above or another passage that depicts His greatness. Then spend some time reminiscing with God – thinking about the times God has been personally present in your life, small enough to walk with you in seasons of plenty and want. Let those memories bring you joy and encouragement and lead you to adoration. 

Evening Reflection

In our culture, we use the word “awesome” very freely – a song is awesome, a movie is awesome, extreme athletic ability is awesome, a great pair of shoes (and on sale) . . . awesome! Yet when God’s people talked about His “awesomeness” they pointed to his character and works that led them to stand in awe (jaws dropped, eyes wide, knees knocking, hands trembling). The greatness of God should blow our minds! 

Spend sometime declaring the greatness of God in your own words. Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of who God is and the things He’s done (in your life and throughout generations). Allow your heart to be moved to awe and adoration for God.  

July 1, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, was first posted on April 29, 2013.  He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Into the Presence of God”

Psalm 43:3-4 (NIV)

Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. 4 Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.

There is more to Psalms 42 and 43 than meets the eye.   While the same question— “Why are you downcast oh my soul” (Psalm 42:5, 11, Psalm 43:5)—is repeated in both, the Psalmist laments in Psalm 42 but he is infused with hope in the following chapter.  Whereas Psalm 42 records the writer’s dialogues with his own soul, the ensuing psalm shows him turning to God in a tone that is different from the previous chapter.  

And yet, I am struck that the cry of the psalmist is not merely for deliverance out of his situation, but deliverance into the presence of God so that he can render worship unto Him.   The psalmist’s desperation had more to do with his difficult circumstances keeping him from worshiping God (in the only way he knew how) than the circumstances themselves. 

I believe the psalmist hits upon the greatest fundamental need of the human condition.  We were made to give glory to God in his presence.  This is the reason that scripture paints a picture of heaven, the ultimate depiction of being “with-God”, as a place where praising and giving glory to our King will never cease. 

What kind of worship are you rendering unto God?  Yesterday, our churches held worship services.  Were you able to give worship as your heart desires?  If not, cry out to God that he would lead you in his truth and light a fire in your heart so that you may worship Him passionately.  

Prayer: Father, forgive me for I know that the worship I give to You is far less than You deserve.  I thank You for Your demonstration of love on the cross.  Because of the cross, I know that Your desire is to be with me.  In the same way, help me to desire Your presence above everything else.  Help me to be value giving You glory and worship above all things.  In Jesus’s name, I pray.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Ezekiel 48


Lunch Break Study

Read John 4:21-26 (NIV): Jesus declared, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.” 25 The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.” 26 Then Jesus declared, “I who speak to you am he.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Why does Jesus say that a time is coming when worship will be given “neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem”?
  2. What does Jesus mean by “salvation is from the Jews”?
  3. What kind of worship does God desire of us?  

Notes

  1. In John’s gospel, a reference to the coming “time” consistently means the hour of Jesus’s exaltation through death and resurrection.  This crisis will throw the whole course of human relationship with God into a new dimension, thereby rendering physical location, whether Jerusalem or Mount Gerizim, an obsolete issue.  Now, because of Jesus, we are able to worship God anywhere.
  2. Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them.  As such, even though the Jewish people had periodically turned apostate, God, nonetheless, kept his covenant with them by allowing Jesus, God’s salvation to the world, to proceed from Israel.  Moreover, Jesus’s messianic renewal of worship was based on Old Testament revelation, affirming it even as he transformed it.  
  3. With the coming of Jesus, a time of true worship is at hand because Jesus is now at hand.  There is to be worship in spirit and truth because Jesus is the truth who dispenses the Spirit to all who believe in him.  True worship, accordingly, is offered through the Son, based not on our sacrifices but upon his.  In addition, true worship is only possible through our union with Jesus by means of the Holy Spirit.

Evening Reflection

The good news of Jesus is also that every moment is an opportunity to give God worship, as any moment is a moment where we can be in his presence.  But what kind of worship will we give?

Even as we worship the Lord, its focus can easily be on us.  How?  We evaluate worship based on how much we liked the songs that we sang, or the message that we heard, or the “quality” of people whom we met in the church.  We choose our churches based on how well their worship services meet our needs.  The irony is that true worship will meet our deep-seated need to be in the presence of God, which starts and ends with Jesus.  If our worship is not based upon the truth of Jesus, and led by the Spirit of God, then we are not offering true worship.  

Are you living a life of worship?  Does your life, words and actions, give glory to God?  In our journals, let us confess the ways that our worship falls short, and then give God authentic praise based upon the work of Jesus Christ, which we see in scripture and in our lives.

June 30, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on March 30, 2015, is provided by Pastor Shan Gian who, in the coming month, is slated to lead Remnant Westside in Manhattan.  Congratulations.  Shan is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“What God Sees in Us”

1 Samuel 16:6-12

When [the sons of Jesse] came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.” 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 8 Then Jesse called Abinadab and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9 Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10 And Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” 11 Then Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but behold, he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and get him, for we will not sit down till he comes here.” 12 And he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy and had beautiful eyes and was handsome. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him, for this is he.” 13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers. And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon David from that day forward. And Samuel rose up and went to Ramah.

In Malcom Gladwell’s book Blink, he writes about a man named Bob Golomb who is an incredibly successful car salesman.  The average car salesman sells ten cars per month, but for over a decade, Golomb has sold on average about twenty cars per month.  What was his secret?  Gladwell tells us that “He assumes that everyone who walks in the door has the exact same chance of buying a car.”  Golomb himself said, “You cannot prejudge people in this business… You have to give everyone your best shot.”  

Golomb has great success selling cars because whenever someone would walk into his dealership, he would not assume anything about them.  A man could walk in wearing a hoodie and sweatpants, but Golomb would approach him the same way he would to a man wearing an expensive business suit.  Golomb was able to sell so many more cars than his fellow car salesmen because no matter who came to him, he would strive to see beyond their appearance and assume their potential to buy a car and give them his best shot.

This sounds like a great philosophy, but how bad are we all at this?  If we just look at Samuel in this passage, he is a prophet, a man who speaks with and for God, but even he struggles to do this!  Looking only at his appearance, he sees Eliab and thinks, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him.”  Samuel was looking at these sons of Jesse and only seeing the outer appearance.  We all do this all the time.  We meet someone, and we see how they look or how they act and we make judgments about them:  “That girl could be an awesome leader” or “That guy he’s not smart enough to be useful here.”  

But the Lord declared, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  Imagine if we would look at people and not see them with our human eyes, judging by their appearance or manner or dress, but instead see them with the eyes of the Lord with a desire to see their hearts.  Maybe we could emulate Bob Golomb and strive to see the potential in every person and discover God’s love for them.

Prayer: Father, I pray that You will open my eyes to see Your love for every person.  Help me to remember that every person I encounter is someone made in Your image.  I pray for eyes to see each person and love them as You do.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Ezekiel 47


Lunch Bible Study

James 2:1-9: My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. 2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in,3 and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” 4 have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? 5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. 9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 

Questions to Consider

  1. What does James say is wrong with showing partiality?
  2. Why is it difficult to fulfill the “royal law” and love our neighbors as ourselves?  
  3. How can you be “doing well” (v. 8) today and share the love of Jesus with your neighbor?   

Notes

  1. In the church that James was addressing, there was this issue of favoritism, causing divisions within the church.  Some in the church seemed to be favoring the rich people in the congregation and giving them seats of honor, while those who were poor were relegated to lower positions.  James tells us that showing partiality or favoritism puts up walls between people.  When we do this, we create distinctions between people and we are judging others with evil thoughts.  We are seeing our fellow brothers and sisters with human eyes.
  2. It is difficult to love others as ourselves because we are so prone to looking at others by the outward appearance.  Though we might not be making judgments of others just because of their looks, it could be about their wealth, status, or even how well we get along with them.  Even as Christians, we find it hard to love our neighbors because we don’t always look at others as God does.  
  3. Personal application question

Evening Reflection

Did God open your eyes today to see people that He loves?  Was there anyone with whom you found it difficult to see past their appearance?  Reflect on God’s love for you and for your neighbor and pray for Him to keep opening your eyes to see others as people made in His image.

June 29, Tuesday

The AMI QT Devotional for today is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI, who has served as a staff at several AMI churches in the past.  He and his wife Mandie have four adorable children: Simon, Maggie, Jonathan, and Abigail. 

Devotional Thought for this Morning

“God or Anyone Else Not Named God?”

2 Sam. 18:32-33 (If you are unfamiliar with the story, it is helpful to read the entire chapter). 

The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.” 33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”

In the 2008 cinematographic masterpiece, Kung Fu Panda, it is revealed to the audience that the antagonist—Tai Lung, the ferocious snow leopard—as actually trained by Master Shifu (the red panda) in the Jade Palace, the home of China’s greatest heroes!  In fact, it was Shifu himself who raised Tai Lung from infancy and loved him like his very own son.  And this love ultimately became his undoing, for Shifu was blind to the fact that Tai Lung’s heart was evil, and he was not worthy to open the dragon scroll.  

Do you ever notice how often movies play off the theme of love blinding one party to the evils of the other?  It’s a prevalent theme because it happens in real life all the time.  How many of your friends have fallen for guys or girls that were clearly no good for them?  In every group, there is that “jerk” whom everyone in the group must concede, “He may be a jerk, but he’s our jerk.”  Similarly, parents are often the last ones to see just how misbehaved their children are.

David’s conflict over his son Absalom is very understandable.  On one hand, Absalom was clearly evil, and it would have been an utter tragedy to allow Absalom to rule Israel (could you imagine the type of king he would have made?).  But on the other hand, Absalom was still the king’s son, and was still loved by his father.  Sometimes standing for the Lord will mean that you will have to stand against loved ones.  This is why Christ says that the Gospel may bring a sword and pit a man against his father or a daughter against her mother (Matt. 10:32-37).  We must not make the mistake of Eli, who honored his sons more than the Lord (1 Sam. 2:29).  This day, ask yourself: What does it mean to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength?  Can you put him above your most beloved people, and will you do what is right no matter the consequences?

Prayer: Lord, help me this day to set You apart in my heart as Lord and to love You more than all others.  Give me the character to do what is right no matter the cost, whether in family, career, finances, etc. Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Ezekiel 46


Lunch Break Study 

Read Matthew 25:19-23: Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. 20 And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, “Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.” 21 His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” 22 And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, “Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.” 23 His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” 

Question to Consider

  1. What happens to the two servants who multiplied their master’s talents?
  2. Was the master’s reaction any different between the two servants? What does this imply?
  3. What does good stewardship mean for you in your workplace? Your church? Your finances?

Notes

  1. They were commended, given more as a result, and entered into the joy of their master
  2. No. The master did not commend the servant with a return of five talents any more than the servant with a return of two talents. The absolute return is not as important to God as much as good stewardship with what was given.
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

We began the day being reminded of putting God ahead of everything else, even our beloved family.  In the afternoon, we were challenged to serve the Lord, yielding much fruits for the Lord.  In light of that, review your day.  Did you put God ahead of other important and perhaps urgent matters of your life?  Did you bear any fruits for God today?

June 28, Monday

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Why God Hates Divorce”

Malachi 2:13b-16 (ESV)

“You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, with weeping and groaning because he no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. 14 But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the Lord was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. 15 Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth. 16 “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her, says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts.  So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Are you surprised to find God taking such offence at divorce?  In addition to defectives animals offered for sacrifices, rampant divorce among the Israelites caused God to reject these offerings.   Even so, I’m more surprised that divorce was an issue back in the 5th century B.C. Israel as it is today when hardly anyone, including some believers, would bat an eye over this.  Since divorce among the believers is quite widespread, many churches have opted to remain silent, but instead speak against same sex marriage.   

Back in Malachi’s day, God certainly cared about the betrayed wives and the forlorn children.  That was on the prophet’s mind as he reminded the men to keep the covenant of marriage.  But God was also concerned about another covenant, the bond between “Christ and the church” (Eph. 5:32).   A “profound mystery” behind the institution of marriage between a man and a woman, established from the very beginning, is this: to foreshadow what God will do one day for humanity, who is separated from Him because of sins, and in time, to reconcile them “to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Cor. 5:19).   

Divorce embodies the breaking of this covenant while same sex marriage distorts it because Christ’s love and sacrifice for the church is founded upon husbands loving their wives (Eph. 5:25).   The first male and female whom God created (Gn. 1:27) were merely the first couple to have the opportunity to foreshadow the covenant between Christ and the church.  And if you are married, or hope to one day, we need to live it out as an essential aspect of the message of reconciliation which we are to proclaim.

But, if you are having trouble with your spouse right now, not much of this may have helped you.   My best move has always been this: Alone in a room, I say to God: “I’ve been telling my wife all her wrongs; tell me now my faults.”  After being informed, I tell my wife, “I am sorry.”  That’s how our marriage has survived.  Try it.  What is there to lose except a little pride, which we can do without just fine!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I marvel at Your wonderful and intricate plan to reconcile us back to You.  While I recognize that we may or may not have entered into this world through the institution of marriage, I thank You that every one of us has the opportunity to “wed” Christ through having faith in him and what was accomplished on the Cross.  How thankful I am to You that Christ loves and cares for me.  Amen   

Bible Reading for Today: Ezekiel 45


Lunch Break Study

Read Eph. 5:21-33 (ESV): “Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

1 Peter 3:7 (ESV): “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

Questions to Consider

  1. The submission issue always riles up some people.  What is the overall tenor of this passage?  Is it one of domination and submission as in enslavement?
  2. How should husbands treat their wives?  What should they do for them?
  3. Ultimately, what is the main message of this passage?  

Notes

  1. First of all, before wives are told to submit to their husbands, everyone is told to submit to one another.   The tenor of the passage calls for humility by all.  Before men protest, remember that even Christ submitted to his father.   The writer of the Hebrews says, “Jesus . . . offered up prayers  . . . and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission” (Heb. 5:7).  
  2. Husbands should treat their wives with respect, honor, care and self-sacrifice.  They should also share God’s word with them so they may be sanctified (i.e., separated from the influence of the world).   For instance, to a stay-home mom who is surrounded by career women, her husband needs to share God’s word that values bringing up children (1 Tim. 5:10) and also his appreciation of her.
  3. God in Christ loves us beyond our imagination.  This love is described by Paul like this: “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-9).

Evening Reflection

Spend a moment praying with your spouse.  If you are single desiring to be married one day, pray for a godly mate.  If you are neither, then pray for the marriage of your parents or friends.