April 25, Sunday

Today’s Devotional, first posted on April 26, 2015, is provided by Pastor Jason Sato.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend 

“Having a Longer Memory of God”

2 Samuel 5:17-20a (ESV)

When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. But David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. [18] Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. [19] And David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” And the LORD said to David, “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand.” [20] And David came to Baal-perazim, and David defeated them there.

My first mission trip was quite an experience.  I had witnessed firsthand the power and goodness of God.  I had met believers who endured persecution yet were excited for opportunities to love their unbelieving neighbors.  In the midst of poverty and tragedy, God was doing a mighty work.  I returned home, convinced that our God is mighty to save…and then I immediately forgot.  

Once I got back to San Diego, the challenges and struggles of everyday life seemed so much more real than God’s greatness.  Problems in my church and my city appeared far too large for God to do anything about them.  Though I never explicitly thought this (partially because it’s so ridiculous), I felt that God was mighty in other cities or countries but not in mine.

King David proves to have a longer memory than mine.  Immediately following David’s coronation as king of Israel, he faces his first challenge.  To “congratulate” him on his coronation, the Philistines gather to seek him out and kill him.  

David knows that the God who had brought him to the throne is still in control.  The God who was powerful and faithful in his early days is ever the same.  David asks for the Lord’s guidance and determines to go to battle only when God has led him into it.  He knows that he needs God’s favor more than an airtight strategy.  The odds are stacked against him, but David waits and listens for the voice of God and then obeys.

Take a moment to remember God’s faithfulness to you over the years.  Recall how He has demonstrated His power in your life.  In what area of life today do you need a God like that? 

Prayer: Father, I thank You that You remain the same yesterday, today, and forever.  You are always good, always faithful, always mighty to save.  Lord, I need Your grace and strength more today than when I first met You.  For the sake of Your Son, be my Rock and my Salvation as You have always been. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 48

April 24, Saturday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Charles Choe who leads Tapestry Church in Los Angeles, was first posted on April 18, 2015.  Charles is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for This Weekend

1 Samuel 31:6 (ESV)

“Thus Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together.” 

Reading about another fallen church leader is never easy to stomach. Even more difficult to bear is reading about how their sin affects those around them. The Bible says that your sin will find you out (Num. 32:23); and when it does, people who sinned are not the only ones who get hurt but also their families, friends and churches as well.


This is clearly demonstrated in Saul’s last battle against the Philistines in 1 Samuel 31.  The battle turned so badly for Israel that they were in full retreat to their own camp.  At this moment, a Philistine archer hit Saul and severely wounded him. Saul, turning to his armor bearer, demanded, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised come and thrust me through, and mistreat me” (v. 4).  Because his armor bearer, being afraid, wouldn’t do it, Saul took a sword and fell on it, bringing a tragic and inevitable end to his undistinguished life and reign. Sadly, Saul did not die alone that day; that is, his prideful rebellion against God ended up causing the death of countless men, including his three sons (one being Jonathan) and his armor bearer. 

What this shows is that you cannot “plant” sin, even if it’s in private, and not expect to reap its consequences that will spill over to those who are in your sphere of influence. The principle is also conversely true. If you make good choices by living in obedience, it will have a way of blessing those who you come to contact with. 

As you are reading this, perhaps the Holy Spirit is bringing to your attention how your sins (perhaps habitual) are affecting the people around you—the people whom you love. Whatever the sin may be, the good news is this: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).  It is sobering to see how sin absolutely diminished the life and reign of Saul.  And yet such a fate may befall us, unless we are vigilant about sin, by praying and walking humbly with our God. 

Pray Based on This: “Although God loves us unconditionally, He does get angry at sin, wickedness and evil. But He is not an angry God. God hates sin, but He loves sinners! He will never approve of sin in your life, but He always loves you and wants to work with you to make progress in living a holy life in Christ.” – Joyce Meyer

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 46-47

April 23, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 29, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Practice Hospitality”

Philem. 1:22

“And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.”

Paul’s request here feels somewhat foreign to us in two regards: first, most of us don’t live in a house with a spare room that can readily be turned into a guest room; two, we rarely pray for someone to visit us and for them to stay for awhile.  But a recent experience with a relative, who was still unmarried and whose mother died a few years ago, made me realize the importance of hosting people, regardless of the size of my home.

One day, my wife was informed of his plan to attend a weeklong conference held in our city.  Even though all travel expenses were covered, including a hotel stay near his meeting, he wanted to stay with us.  But we live in a small house, and that week our son came home for spring break; his room is the basement.  While we planned to invite him to dinner, the thought of someone staying in our small house for a week didn’t enamor me.  I reasoned that his stay would affect me since I work at home (on the dinner table), mostly writing until the late evening.  

However, it became apparent that this relative really wanted to stay with us.  I actually prayed about this, and the Lord made it clear t hat this had more to do my unresolved feelings toward him than anything else.  Thus, even though the best I could offer was for him to share the basement with my son, this accomplished physician didn’t care.  So, he ended up eating with us every night, used my car to commute to his meeting, and spent the evening interacting with my family.  During this time, I came to see that this lonesome man simply missed being around a family.  Perhaps, that’s why, as I was praying one morning, the Lord told me to tell him, “You can stay with us any time you are in town.”   Surprised to hear this, he said, “Oh really, thanks.”  I think that did more for me than for him.    

“Practice hospitality” (Rom. 13:13b) said Paul.  To do that sometimes, we must first “accept one another . . . just as Christ accepted you” (Rom. 15:7a).  So, who in your life do you need to accept?  

Prayer: Jesus, I realized today that sometimes willingness to be hospitable toward someone is tied to overlooking that person’s faults.  Lord, help me to be gracious, especially toward those who have disappointed or hurt me.  Remind me of Christ’s sacrifice and empower me to be hospitable with the strength you provide.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 45


Lunch Break Study

Read Heb. 13:1-2: “Keep on loving one another as brothers and sisters. Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”  

Gn. 18:2-5:Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground. 3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by. 4 Let a little water be brought, and then you may all wash your feet and rest under this tree. 5 Let me get you something to eat, so you can be refreshed and then go on your way—now that you have come to your servant. . . .”                                                                                                                                                

Jer. 31:25: “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.” (Read it literally; ignore the context.)

Questions to Consider

  1. Define hospitality.  What would that involve in the context of AMI churches?
  2. How does hospitality affect those who receive it?
  3. How does hospitality affect those who give it?  What has been your personal experience?

Notes

  1. It is giving aid and comfort to those who need it.  Of course, in today’s world, most people would be hard pressed to bring in complete strangers to their home.  At the very least, we can offer our places to people from other AMI churches who are attending events held at your church.  
  2. The Jeremiah passage says it very succinctly: “Refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”  When you are in a jam and someone steps up like that, it brings great relief.
  3. Obviously, it would make them feel good and there is nothing wrong with that.   Perhaps more importantly, being hospitable (i.e., being generous) can clarify our priorities, giving us an opportunity to remember why God has blessed us.   

Evening Reflection

Let’s review today.  Did you have an opportunity to be hospitable toward someone?  Was someone hospitable toward you?  Make a journal of this day in light of those questions.

April 22, Thursday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey, was first posted on July 31, 2014.  He is a graduate of University of Wisconsin (BA) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Humility”

1 Peter 5:6

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

For those who want to climb up the ladder of success, the least desired trait or attitude may be humility, because for many people, it means becoming a doormat.  But humility is a beautiful and powerful characteristic in the Kingdom of Heaven.  If you desire to be humble, then you desire to be like Christ.  

Humility is the kingdom’s way to greatness:  Jesus, putting a child in the midst of the disciples, said:  “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:4).  In looking back to those who had the greatest influence in my life, they weren’t people who were necessarily the most intelligent or the most talented, but they were those who were genuinely humble.  Humility has power; power to stop wars, and power to open doors for transformation and growth.  When we embody humility, we are “allowing” God to complete the work He is doing in us because, while “God opposes the proud. . . [he] gives grace to the humble” (James. 4:6).  And the grace of God is what ultimately changes us to be useful for his kingdom work.  

But let’s not mistake humility with insecurity. For instance, when Moses encountered God through the burning bush, Moses was not humble, but he was insecure: he was focused on what he couldn’t do rather than on what God could do through him.  Many of us don’t realize that insecurity is an unhealthy focus on self, fed by fear, doubt, and faithlessness. On the other hand, humility enables us to hear and see what God can do in us, opening the door to real faith; a faith that doesn’t depend on self, but on the promises of God. Humility allows us to believe in something greater than ourselves. 

Prayer: “Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness.” Jesus, help me to be humble. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 44


Lunch Break Study

Read Mark 10:42-43: Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

Questions to Consider

  1. What are the differences between having a low self-esteem as opposed to biblical humility?
  2. How does humility show greatness?

Notes

  1. One factor that fuels low self-esteem is comparing oneself to others, especially those who have   worldly success.  Who is going to feel good about oneself after that?  Biblical humility stems from realizing that we are unworthy to merit salvation and too weak to do anything worthy of God.  But instead of giving up, we look to God to strengthen us.
  2. Humility on our part can lead to greatness when people see how God has demonstrated his power through us and in spite of us.  In Acts 4:13, Peter and John were described as unschooled and ordinary by their opponents, but God was glorified when they noticed the boldness of Peter and John, despite of them.  

Evening Reflection

Examine yourself to see in what area of your life you need more humility.

April 21, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 29, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Can You be Trusted?”

Philem. 1:20-1

“I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.”

Few things in my house still remind me of my time in Mexico in the 2000s. One is a generator and the other, two computer projectors.  These items were donated to me by someone who served in my youth group in the 1980s.  Actually, while I needed these things for my teaching ministry, conducted mostly in the city but sometimes in rural areas, I never asked for them.  But one day in 2003, she asked me whether I would like a projector and the PowerPoint.  “Sure,” I said.  Those who are familiar with my teaching know how much PowerPoint I use; well, it all began with her gift.  When this projector broke down, not only did she get it fixed, but bought another one for backup.  Sometime later, when I asked her whether a portable battery pack would be strong enough to run a projector, she immediately shipped me the generator!

In today’s text, Paul certainly is not advocating a relationship in which pastors fleece their flock: “Hey brother, give me some cash—the more the merrier!”   What can easily be ignored here is the relationship between Paul and Philemon, a man of means who became a believer through him in Colosse.  That alone, however, is not enough for God’s servants to be able to say, “May I have some benefit from you?”   In addition, a relationship of trust, a partnership (Philem.1:17), had long been established between the two.  Philemon knew that Paul did not “think that godliness is a means to financial gain” (1 Tim. 6:5) and that he “preach[ed] the gospel . . . free of charge” (1 Cor. 9:18).  Paul also knew that Philemon was “generous and willing to share” (1 Tim. 6:18).  Out of that mutual understanding and trust, Paul could be forthright in making these requests to Philemon, who was neither suspicious nor offended.

I, too, became up-front with this godly woman in my periodic requests; she trusted that I was doing the Lord’s work with integrity and I knew that she just wanted to be part of God’s work.   How about you?  Can a missionary have that kind of confidence in you?  Can a layperson have that kind of confidence in her pastor?  Before asking or giving, let’s work on building the trust first.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, it is amazing how much I have been blessed over the years by you.  In every area of my life, I have received so much more than what I need.  Therefore, please lead me to those who serve you with integrity, who are in need of the kind of resources that I can provide.  Fill me with your Spirit. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 43


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Kings 22:3-7: “In the eighteenth year of his reign, King Josiah sent the secretary, Shaphan son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the temple of the Lord. He said: 4 “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest and have him get ready the money that has been brought into the temple of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have collected from the people. 5 Have them entrust it to the men appointed to supervise the work on the temple. And have these men pay the workers who repair the temple of the Lord— 6 the carpenters, the builders and the masons.  Also have them purchase timber and dressed stone to repair the temple. 7 But they need not account for the money entrusted to them, because they are honest in their dealings.”

Questions to Consider

  1. In view of the lack of ethics existing in work places, what is so refreshing about what went on?
  2. In what sense is the working relationship here similar to the one between Paul and Philemon? 
  3. How do you build this kind of trust?  (Lk. 16:10)

Notes

  1. The money went through several hands in order for work to begin: donors, to the collectors, to the high priest, to the supervisors, and to the actual workers.  In many countries, by the time the money reaches to the level of workers, half of the original amount would have been siphoned off.  That’s why some buildings and bridges don’t stay up.  Financial honesty means a reliable structure, which, needless to say, is a matter of life and death.
  2. Accountability enforced by an outside party is all the more necessary in an environment in which people have shown that they cannot be trusted.  It is also placed as a preventive measure as well.  But, those who supervised the reparation of the temple didn’t need it.  To reach that level, the relationships must be tested, and trust, earned (which is what happened between Paul and Philemon). 
  3. Luke 16:10 says like this: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”  Trust is built by showing responsibility and trustworthiness with little things.

Evening Reflection

Evaluate your day from the standpoint of trust: Did people around you gain more trust in you by the way you lived and worked today?  What are some areas that you need to fix?  Let’s begin by trusting in God.  

April 20, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on March 2, 2015; it has been updated. Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

1 Samuel 9:1-27 (ESV)

There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Becorath, son of Aphiah, a Benjaminite, a man of wealth. 2 And he had a son whose name was Saul, a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people. 3 Now the donkeys of Kish, Saul’s father, were lost. So Kish said to Saul his son, “Take one of the young men with you, and arise, go and look for the donkeys.” 4 And he passed through the hill country of Ephraim and passed through the land of Shalishah, but they did not find them. And they passed through the land of Shaalim, but they were not there. Then they passed through the land of Benjamin, but did not find them. 15 Now the day before Saul came, the Lord had revealed to Samuel: 16 “Tomorrow about this time I will send to you a man from the land of Benjamin, and you shall anoint him to be prince over my people Israel. He shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines. For I have seen my people, because their cry has come to me.” 17 When Samuel saw Saul, the Lord told him, “Here is the man of whom I spoke to you! He it is who shall restrain my people.” 

One of the questions that have always come to my mind in reading 1 Samuel 9 is: “Why did God direct Samuel the prophet to choose Saul as the first king of Israel?”  For those who know the story, Saul was a horrible king who rejected God’s commands and was self-serving, murderous, and insane towards the end of his life.  God certainly could have kept this man from the throne, yet not only does He permit Saul to become king, but He is the active agent in the process of bringing Saul to power.  Was this simply a case of not reading Saul’s resume carefully and making an unfortunate hiring blunder?  

Actually, God hired exactly who the people of Israel wanted.  They wanted a king just like the kings of the surrounding nations, and so they received the desires of their heart.  In the text, we are told that Saul was a head taller than any of the people.  From a human perspective, it would seem good for a king to, at least, look the part, but the problem is that in the Old Testament, descriptions of stature are only given to the villains (remember Goliath?).  In fact, the good guys are identified primarily by their ability to tend their flocks, like a good shepherd.  We read in the story that Saul falls woefully short in his capacity to find the animals in his care.  This is all a foreshadowing of the type of king that Saul would eventually become.  

It is so easy to judge everything by its exterior appearance and forget about what truly matters.  Like the people of Israel, we too can become consumed by our desire to achieve the world’s standards of prestige, fame, good looks, and fortune.  A sobering thought is that God sometimes gives into our illegitimate demands in order to teach us the hard lesson of humility and to point us towards Christ.  Unlike Saul, Jesus, the true King, was lowly in stature and despised in the eyes of men.  Yet for those of us who believe, He is our Good Shepherd, who has come from heaven to earth to find us and to care for us.  

Prayer: Father, help us to remember that You do not judge by the outward appearance, but by what is in the heart.  May we clothes ourselves in the humility of Christ and help us to reflect this attitude in the things that we desire and pray for.  Above everything else, purify our motives and give us pure hearts that yearn to do Your will.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Jeremiah 42


Lunch Break Study

Read James 4:1-6 (ESV): What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? 2 You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? 6 But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is the main cause of fighting and quarrels among believers according to James?
  2. Why are prayers not being answered by God?
  3. What is the solution that is given for these problems that we find in the church?

Notes

  1. The primary reason for quarreling among Christians is the spiritual war that is within each of us.  All of us are a mixture of good and evil, and simultaneously both saint and sinner.  Much of our conflict with others is simply an overflow of the uncontrolled conflict that resides inside our own hearts.
  2. The main cause of unanswered prayer is asking with the wrong motives.  Even the most legitimate prayer request can be corrupted by our selfishness and desire to satisfy our own passions.  
  3. Simply put, we need more of the grace of God.  If we continue to depend on our sense of self-sufficiency and pride, we compound the problem by facing the opposition of God.  Humility releases the grace of God into all of the relational issues that we face in the church.  

Evening Reflection

Is there someone that you have been fighting with recently, perhaps your wife/husband, children, friend, etc.?  How did your pride make the problem worse?  How can humility bring reconciliation?  Pray to the Lord for more grace in the midst of conflict in your life.  

April 19, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 24, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“The Redemption Business”

Philem. 1:15-17

“Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord. So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me.”

In May, 1981, I left home in Virginia for sunny California, not to seek God but to party.  Little did I know that I would become a believer within five days, and then end up living in the golden state until heading to Mexico in 2000.   Whenever I would visit home thereafter, it was always hard saying goodbye to my tearful mother.  Yet, she would remind herself and me that the separation was for a good purpose, for my aimless life had become quite purposeful. 

Paul, too, saw that: a brief period that had separated Onesimus from his master Philemon served both men well.  Although the separation resulted from of an unlawful act by Onesimus (running away), nevertheless, it became the doorstep to his redemption: a slave to his master has now become his “fellow man” and “brother in the Lord.”  As for Philemon, while the absence of his slave was an economic setback, yet, the separation presented an opportunity for his faith to deepen, as he faced a choice between seeking retribution against his runaway slave who also stole from him, or his restoration.  

The apostle Paul was confident that the one whom he considered as my “dear friend and fellow worker” (Philem. 1:2) would do that right thing.  Why was Paul so confident of this?  No, it wasn’t because he had an inside dirt on him to coerce his compliance; rather, Paul was confident of Philemon’s recognition that those whose debts have been cancelled by God “should . . . have . . . mercy on [their] fellow servant” (Matt. 18:33). 

As you begin this day, you may be facing dire consequences of having made choices to seek pleasure, or to do something unwise, even unlawful in the past.  Perhaps, you are ready to give up on yourself, but God isn’t.  He is into the redemption business.  Go to the Lord today in penitence and humility.  That’s always the first step toward restoration and redemption. 

Prayer: Dear God, thank You for not having rejected me for who I used to be and what I used to do.  Thank You also for Your continual acceptance of me, in Christ, even though I still struggle at times with my unhealthy habits.  I am so encouraged to be reminded that You are a God of redemption.  Continue to lead me, teach me, and even rebuke me so that I may be more like Christ.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 41


Lunch Break Study

Any and every bad situation can be the doorstep to our redemption.  

Read John 8:3a-5, 7-11: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery . . . 4 and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ . . . . 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. 9 At this, those who h  eard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’ 11 ‘No one, sir,’ she said. ‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared.  ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’”

Questions to Consider

  1. In what way could this day have been the worst day of her day?  
  2. In what sense did this day turn out to be best day of her life?  With respect to Onesimus, what turned out to be the best of day of his life?  What has been the best day of your life?
  3. If those accusers were really honest with themselves, what lesson did they learn that day? 

Notes

  1. The public humiliation that she was facing would have been pale in comparison to what her accusers intended: executing her by stoning.  Returning to Philemon could have been the worst day of Onesimus’ life had his master prosecuted him.  Obviously, there is no mercy in both cases.
  2. Instead of condemnation, this woman received forgiveness and a brand new lease on life. Having been redeemed in this way, she, like Onesimus, was placed on good ground to leave the life of sin. My best day of my life is the day Jesus found me! (May, 1981).
  3. They would have realized the truth of James 2:10: “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”  In other words, they were lawbreakers just as the woman caught in the act of adultery. 

Evening Reflection

Each day, we ought to separate ourselves from people (including our family) to spend time alone with God.  This is as good a time as any to do that.  Reflect on today as you talk to God for a better tomorrow.

April 18, Sunday

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Blame Game”

Eccles. 6:1-2

“There is an evil that I have seen under the sun, and it lies heavy on mankind: 2 a man to whom God gives wealth, possessions, and honor, so that he lacks nothing of all that he desires, yet God does not give him power to enjoy them, but a stranger enjoys them. This is vanity; it is a grievous evil.”

Whenever something goes wrong in my house, my wife will ask, “What did I do now?”  This frequent pattern has led me to one of two conclusions:  First possibility, my wife is mistake-prone, and she knows it.  Or the second, she is employing sarcasm to make the point that I tend to blame her for things that are probably my fault.  I choose to believe the former because I cannot possibly be the problem!

In all seriousness, the blame game is literally as old as humanity (Genesis 3 records Adam blaming Eve for giving him the fruit to eat, and Eve blaming the serpent for deceiving her) and ingrained into its nature (my three-year-old blames her brother for “starting it” whenever she hits him).  People just hate taking responsibility for their actions and shortcomings.  

Read today’s passage carefully.  Does anything stick out to you?  When we carefully read verse 2, we see that the writer of Ecclesiastes actually blames God for his greed, saying, “…yet God does not give him power to enjoy them [wealth, possessions, and honor].”  What are we to make of this text?  Is the theological truth of this passage that God is some kind of childish and mean deity who allows us to accumulate wealth, but does not give us the power to enjoy them or allows another to take them away? Or, is the writer of Ecclesiastes (likely Solomon) a little jaded and his perception of reality a little off?

I would vote for the latter, but before we label Solomon an ingrate, let me ask you this question: Are you content with your life, circumstances, and wealth right now?  Have you ever felt like God was holding out on you or trying to deny you happiness?  Although most of us are too churched to say it out loud, I think we have all felt this way about something.  But here is the truth: our lack of contentment has less to do with not having enough, and more to do with our desire for more.  Sometimes we are so greedy that we cannot enjoy what God has already given us.  This day, try to cultivate a thankful heart. Stop blaming God or others for the things you don’t have, but instead, thank him for all that you do have.  

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I need to stop the blame game, but it is so hard to avoid it.   Help me to see clearly my reality so that I take responsibility for my failing actions; and then go to You for forgiveness and restoration. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 40

April 17, Saturday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI, was first posted on September 6, 2014.  A graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Cairn University (MA), Yohan served as a staff at several AMI churches in the past. 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“God’s Timing”

Eccles. 3:11

“He has made everything beautiful in its time.  He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God had done from beginning to end.”

As my family and I are in the process of relocating from Philadelphia to San Francisco, we’ve   learned that in his timing, God shows his incredible love and care for us.  If I had it my way, our family would have moved in early summer (May or June); however, we are scheduled to move later in September.  

The largest hurdle that we had to overcome was finding employment for my wife (S. F. is too expensive to make it solely on a pastor’s salary).  For months we had been scouring the Internet trying to find a right part-time position since we have small children.  Surprisingly, part-time nurse practitioner positions are very rare in the Bay Area; so when the seemingly perfect job finally came up at a city hospital last April, we did everything in our power to get it.  On the surface, this seemed like the perfect fit; not only for our family life, but for every skill set that my wife had gained over the last 10 years.  In fact, many people that we talked to had “that sense” that this was the job God prepared for us.  But after a long, arduous process, we got rejected; and it was quite discouraging.

But within a week, my wife received an e-mail from the UCSF School of Nursing requesting a video interview.  On a whim, my wife applied for a part-time teaching position at UCSF, although she had never formally taught. And within three weeks, she got the job!  Truthfully, this position seems even more perfect for our family than the hospital job: The hours are more flexible and much work can be done at home.  Also, with others in the UCSF faculty with four children, we envision them empathizing with our family’s needs.  The only drawback is that I now have to call my wife “professor.”   

On a personal note, not being able to move until now allowed me to spend a couple more months with my mother, who recently went to be with the Lord.  Since I found out that she was sick in June, I’m grateful that we hadn’t moved to the West Coast in early summer. There may be many reasons why our move did not occur until now, but personally, I think the Lord wanted me to spend a little more time with my mom.  Though it was hard to see at the time, in retrospect, even in his timing, I see God’s love, care, and provision in my life.

If you are struggling to see what God is doing in your life, take solace that you are in good company: The writer of Ecclesiastes was also struggling with this.  Although he acknowledged that mankind has eternity in their hearts, he also seemed frustrated that he would never know what God was doing eternally.  But even in your lack of understanding, can you put faith in God that He makes everything “beautiful in its time?”  What are you struggling with right now?  Are you having a hard time seeing how God is working in your life?  Can you acknowledge that you lack perspective?  Please be patient. It might be a month, a year, or even longer, but trust me, you will see a little more clearly; and you will experience his love, care, and provision.  

Prayer: Lord, as I see my life unfolding right before my eyes, I admit that I lack perspective.  Lord, I acknowledge that I am impatient.  So, HELP!    

Bible Reading for Today:  Jeremiah 38-39

April 16, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on April 27, 2015, is written by Pastor David Son who pastors the Thrive Church in Taipei.  He is a graduate of University of California, Berkeley (BA) and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.). Stay up to date with the church plant by following them here: https://www.instagram.com/thrivechurchtaipei/

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“I Was Only Trying to Help”

2 Samuel 6:5-8

And David and all the house of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God. And David was angry because the Lord had broken out against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzzah to this day.

At 5 years old I was a very curious child. One of my earliest memories was when my father was fixing a broken VCR cassette rewinder (yup, VCR) in our house. He strongly warned me not to touch the electrical components. But being quite a smart child, I couldn’t help notice that the cord was unplugged! Even with my little knowledge, I knew that the cord had to be plugged in for the machine to work. And so, while my father was busy working on the machine itself, I went over to the electrical outlet, grabbed the two pronged plug, and confidently inserted it into the socket. WHAM! It all happened so fast, the next thing I knew, I was on the ground, seeing stars and an incredible pain was running from the tips of my fingers all throughout my body. I screamed and cried out in frustration and agony. What happened!? I was only trying to help!

Poor Uzzah. He was only trying to help! If we read this passage from the human perspective, God seems very unjust! How could he kill Uzzah?—his intentions were good! He was trying to prevent the ark from falling into the dirt, and he died for it. From this perspective, we can all understand why King David became angry with God, because of this seemingly unjust punishment.

However, to understand this situation more fully, we must acknowledge that God is supremely holy. So holy that nothing sinful can come into contact with Him and survive. This is not an issue of intentions! The fact is that not even the most well-meaning person can come into contact with the raw holiness of the Almighty God… and expect to live. Uzzahgrossly underestimated the holiness of God. Uzzah made the incorrect assumption that he was cleaner than the dirt of the ground!

What is our posture towards the holiness of God? Have you ever been angry at God for something in your life that seems unjust? Often, we need to take a step back and recognize the awesome holiness of God; only then can we act with true wisdom.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” -Proverbs 9:10

Prayer: LORD, You are holy, holy, holy. Help us to meditate on Your holiness today. Humble our hearts to see You as You are. If we have become irreverent, wise in our own eyes, or if we have somehow lost the fear of the Lord, we repent. Teach us how to live in the wisdom that comes from the fear of the Lord. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Jeremiah 37


Lunch Break Study

Read Isaiah 6:1-7: In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is Isaiah’s initial reaction as he enters the presence of God?
  2. Why do you think Isaiah reacted this way (as opposed to running to God and giving him a big hug?)
  3. How is Isaiah’s sin dealt with?
  4. Verse 6 indicates that there was a burning coal and an altar. What do you think these symbolize?

Notes

  1. Isaiah declares, “Woe is me! For I am lost…” Isaiah is basically saying, “I’m a dead man!”
  2. The passage indicates that in light of God’s holiness, Isaiah’s uncleanness certainly guaranteed his death.
  3. One of the seraphim touches Isaiah’s lips with a burning coal from the altar and declares, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
  4. Usually, when there is an altar that is on fire, there is also a sacrifice. We know that Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. We can safely infer that the act of atonement that happens here in Isaiah’s vision is a symbolic gesture of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ!

Evening Reflection

Today, let us take a moment and reflect on two things: One, the awesome holiness of God whom we must learn to approach with reverence and fear, a God whose holiness leaves no room for compromise and whose justice is beyond appeal. Two, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who washes away our guilt and shame so completely as to usher us into the breathtaking presence of God. Praise be to God!