May 5, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional is a reprint of Kate Moon’s blog originally posted on October 21, 2015.  Kate continues to serve the Lord in E. Asia. 

Devotional Thought for this Morning

“Oops, I Could’ve Asked for Horses and Soldiers”

Ezra 8:21-23

There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. 22 I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, ‘The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.’ 23 So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.”

Have you ever made a boast that you lived to regret?  Or even simply said you could do something only to find out later that it was a lot harder than you thought, and now you’re stuck?  If so, you have some idea of Ezra’s predicament here.

I love how honest Ezra is about his reasons for proclaiming the fast, how human he shows himself to be.  Often, when we think about Bible characters declaring faith in God before people who believe in other gods, we think of bold stances taken: Elijah who challenged the prophets of Baal, having full confidence that God would come through; or Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who told King Nebuchadnezzar they believed God could rescue them from the fiery furnace, but even if He didn’t, He would still be God to them.  

Ezra’s situation was somewhat different in that when he said what he did, it wasn’t in the immediate context of having God prove Himself.  Ezra may have just been explaining about what God was like to the king.  And yet now here he was, caught by his words, finding himself in a situation where he had to place his trust in God though it may not have been his original intent.  When Ezra says that he was ashamed to ask the king for the protection of his army, we can imagine the subtext: “Ah, if only I hadn’t said anything, I totally could have asked him for the horses and soldiers!”

Our faith can be so unheroic, almost reluctant at times.  Yet, it seems God can sometimes allow us to get ourselves into these situations so that He can prove himself, even when we had no intention of taking a leap of faith or making a stand so that He could receive glory.  Is there an area of your life where you feel God is asking you to trust in Him today?  Even if your faith feels as small as a mustard seed, turn to Him – turn and see what He can do.

Prayer: Lord, I confess that most of the time, I’m not in the mindset of taking these great risks for the sake of Your Name.  Most of the time, I’d rather play it safe.  Lord, help me to believe in You for greater things, in spite of myself.  For your glory, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 26


Lunch Break Study 

Read Matthew 17:19-21:Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, ‘Why couldn’t we drive it out?’ 20 He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’” 

Questions to Consider

1. How does Jesus describe the faith required to do a miracle (v. 20)?

2. What does this say about just how little faith the disciples had (vv. 19-20)?

3. What does Jesus say can be done if we have faith (v. 20)?  Is there something that you’ve written off as impossible that God may be asking you to reconsider today?

Notes

1. As small as a mustard seed.

2. It wasn’t just “not enough;” if it wasn’t even as big as a mustard seed, it was next to none.

3. Anything.  Sometimes, daring to believe in God for something makes you vulnerable as there is fear of disappointment.  But take heart; He wants to do more in our lives than we think.


Evening Reflection

As a result of meditating on God’s word throughout the day, was your outlook more hopeful?

May 4, Wednesday

REPOSTToday’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor David Kwon of Journey Community Church in Raleigh, was originally posted on November 25, 2015.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (B.S.) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“God’s Purpose Amid Human Tragedies”

Esther 2:19-23; 3:1-6

Now when the virgins were gathered together the second time, Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate. [20] Esther had not made known her kindred or her people, as Mordecai had commanded her, for Esther obeyed Mordecai just as when she was brought up by him. [21] In those days, as Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. [22] And this came to the knowledge of Mordecai, and he told it to Queen Esther, and Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai. [23] When the affair was investigated and found to be so, the men were both hanged on the gallows. And it was recorded in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the king.

[3:1] After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him. [2] And all the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage. [3] Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress the king’s command?” [4] And when they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai’s words would stand, for he had told them that he was a Jew. [5] And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury. [6] But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.

When pain and suffering come upon us, we finally see not only that we are not in control of our lives but that we never were.” ― Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

As we look at the tragedies that are going all around the world, it’s often easy to ask what God’s purpose is in all of it.  Innocent lives lost due to terrorist attacks, wars between countries, school shootings and many other evils that we see and hear about can often be disheartening and often leads us to fear and anxiety in our own lives.  

In today’s passage, the author of Esther is revealing the workings of worldly and evil power and how God’s plan cannot be thwarted.  First, Mordecai happens to overhear a plot to assassinate Xerxes but was soon foiled after reporting it to Queen Esther.  It almost sounds like luck that he was at the right place at the right time but we know that this was part of God’s divine plan.  Also, a newly elected official named Haman comes into the story and we read about his evil plot for genocide against the Jewish people.  We are reminded that in the midst of darkness and suffering, God is in absolute control.  So what can we learn from these verses?

  1. We need to be aware of spiritual battle – one main lesson we see in Esther is that there is the reality of the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world.  Paul writes in Ephesians 6: 12 – For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.  We are called to fight the spiritual battle in prayer.  
  2. We see God’s sovereignty in the midst of injustice—through the assassination plot against Xerxes and Haman’s scheming against the Jewish people.  As believers, we are reminded that God is never surprised or caught off guard.  He’s in control and we need to continually trust in Him.

Prayer: Lord, the Cross is proof that you love me even in darkness and hardship.  May you continually remind me of this truth as I strive to obey you.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 25


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 2:14-16: Do all things without grumbling or disputing, [15] that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, [16] holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does Paul say about believers being blameless?  Why do you think he says this?
  2. Why is it important to show the world that we are blameless?
  3. What are some areas in your life where you desire to be more blameless?

Notes:

  1. It means that we should strive not to live a life of hypocrisy but rather we should conduct ourselves worthy of Christ in all that we do.  Paul is addressing the Christians in Philippi that one of the main characteristics that Christians should have is that they ought to be blameless and innocent. The word ‘blameless’ means pure or without mixture.
  2. We want to shine Christ unto this unbelieving world, and often times it is through our lifestyle that people will see Jesus in us.  
  3. The only way this is possible is if we are submitted to the Holy Spirit and rooted in the Word of God.  Take some time to pray and ask the Lord to search your heart and to remove any areas that might not be considered ‘blameless’ in the eyes of the Lord.  Do not lose heart.  God desires to change us and make us more like him.  

Evening Reflection

As you end your day, spend some time acknowledging the greatness of our God and remind yourself that he is control of all things.  Often in the busyness of our daily lives, we tend to forget that God is sovereign and nothing is out of his control even when we face trials.   Worship and ascribe greatness unto Him.    

May 3, Tuesday

REPOSTToday’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 20, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Chasing Money, Missing Heaven”

Lk. 14:15-23 (ESV)

When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” [16] But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. [17] And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ [18] But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ [19] And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ [20] And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ [21] So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ [22] And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ [23] And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.’”

My father (who died in 2007) had powerfully encountered God in his 30s, but drifted away from Him as he experienced success in the business world.   So since our family lived a very wealthy life in Korea, coming to America was disadvantageous for us economically.   When my aunt from Korea once visited us in the U.S., she was shocked and dismayed seeing that we were living a very simple, non-luxurious lifestyle. 

After becoming a believer in 1981, I began praying for my father’s salvation, but he didn’t seem to respond at all.  At that time, he was doing well financially operating a cafeteria in an affluent section of Washington D.C.   Sensing that his god was his wealth, and his mind was set on earthly things, I began praying, “Lord, allow his business to fail if that’s what it’ll take for him to come to You.”  Fast forward to 1986, when my parents came to California for my engagement—grabbing my hand, my father said, “I’m so happy right now even though I lost my restaurant because Jesus is in my heart!”  No sooner than I was reminded of my earlier prayer, my father added, “Your uncle gave you $1,000 as a gift but I can only give you $100; I need the rest for the engagement.”  A bittersweet moment?  No, it was all sweet!

In the parable, the first man rejected God’s offer of salvation on account of his business, saying, “I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it.”  Either he was lying or wasn’t a good businessman: who buys a field without first seeing it?  Ultimately, “whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income” (Eccles. 5:10).  Meanwhile, he neglects the things of God until the very day when God says, “You fool!  This very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself” (Lk. 12:20).  Don’t be a fool by bartering away eternal life in Christ with the momentary enjoyment of earthly things.  Take a pause and reflect: are you right with God?  Confess.  Repent.   

Prayer: Lord, thank You for richly providing everything for me so that I can enjoy (1 Tim. 6:17) it as well as serve You with it.  Too often, however, I set my mind on earthly things, thereby neglecting to promote your Kingdom business.  Forgive me; may the Spirit in me stir my heart to truly live for You.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 24


Lunch Break Study

1 Tim. 6:9-10, 17-8 (NIV): “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. [10] For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. . . .  [17] Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. [18] Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

Question to Consider

1. In what ways can money (wealth) entrap those who are consumed by it?

2. What is the divine purpose behind God giving us wealth?

3. Finding the right balance between enjoying the wealth and using it for good deeds is an issue that we all struggle with.  Make an honest appraisal of yourself and if found lacking, take actions. 

Notes

1. The love of money elicits the following feelings: “I don’t have enough”; “Someone is going to steal it”; “They like me for my money”; “I’m better than anyone else”; “They’re looking down on me because I don’t have enough, so I better earn more,” etc.  The result: Wandering from the faith. 

2. For us to enjoy; this means we shouldn’t feel guilty when we take vacations or buy things, hopefully to meet a real need, and to do good deeds with it (which many don’t).

3. To break away from a life centered on money, an intentional act of generosity may release the grip the love of money has on us. 


Evening Reflection

Did you make money today?  How do you plan to spend it?  Based on how you have spent money today, what does that tell you about your priorities?  Reflect on this and make an appropriate prayer unto God.

May 2, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI Devotional Thought, first posted on November 2, 2015, is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI, who in the past has served as a staff at several AMI churches.  He is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Cairn University (MA).

Devotional Thought for Today

“The Thin Line Between Being Genuinely Critical and Downright Discouraging”

Nehemiah 4:1-3

Now when Sanballat heard that we were building the wall, he was angry and greatly enraged, and he jeered at the Jews. 2 And he said in the presence of his brothers and of the army of Samaria, “What are these feeble Jews doing? Will they restore it for themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they finish up in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, “Yes, what they are building—if a fox goes up on it he will break down their stone wall!”

When it comes to navigating the thin line between being genuinely critical in a constructive sense and being downright discouraging, we struggle (or know someone who struggles); and we probably have, on more than one occasion, erred on the side of insensitivity.  Recently, as we were evaluating a certain event in one of our staff meetings, one of the guys started sharing his honest criticisms as to how to make the event better.  As he was sharing, you could see the planner of the said event starting to well up with emotion.  Soon, tears came out, emotions got a little out of control, and everyone felt a little uncomfortable.  This happened because one party was genuinely trying to provide constructive criticism, while the other party only felt discouragement (remember how thin that line is). 

Now, make no mistake about it: In today’s passage, Sanballat and Tobiah were the antagonists in Nehemiah’s life, so they were intentionally trying to discourage Nehemiah and the rest of the Jews from rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.  In fact, as you will see later in the chapter, they did more than discourage with words—they threatened with physical harm.  So it is a little unfair to compare them to a well-meaning critic, but here is the point: Often, those of you who have a critical mind (which is truly a gift) have to make sure that in your zeal for truth, maximum efficiency, or polished events, that you do not come off discouraging to others.  

As we begin this day, let me ask you: How are you with your words?  We are told to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), but are you sometimes guilty of neglecting the “in love” use of words?  Better yet, can you make it a goal not only to be not discouraging, but to genuinely encourage another person?  Expressing a little faith in another person may go a long way. 

Prayer: Lord, help me to be mindful not only of my words, but also the tone I speak in.  Give me wisdom to be honest without being discouraging.  Please allow me to encourage others this day. 

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 23


Lunch Break Study

Read James 3:1-12: Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 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. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 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. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 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,[c] these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

Questions to Consider

1.  What damage can be done with the tongue?

2.  How are our words supposed to glorify God?

3.  Would you say that your mouth is more of a “fresh or salt water” spring?  How have you experienced the truth that the tongue is a “fire” or untamed animal? 

Notes

1.  The purpose of the bridle and rudder illustrations is that our mouths can impact the direction of our lives.  In this case, the results are poor; often our tongues shipwreck our lives.  We can also curse others who have been made in the image of God.  Additionally, our words can discourage, belittle, curse, break promises, boast, slander, lie, etc.

2.  First, we are to bless the Lord with our words (v. 9).  On the positive side of the bridle and rudder illustrations, our can also powerfully guide our lives (if we have the integrity to follow through on our words). 


Evening Reflection

Did you have an opportunity to be critical and truthful?  Were you discouraging in your words or tone, or did you do your best to encourage?  Did you honor God with praise and blessing today?  It’s still not too late. 

May 1, Sunday 

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Charles Choe who leads Tapestry Church in Los Angeles, was first posted on October 31, 2015.  Charles is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Playing Well Together as a Team”

Nehemiah 3:3-27

The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. [4] And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired. And next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel repaired. And next to them Zadok the son of Baana repaired.

Whenever October comes around, I get excited?  Why? It’s the beginning of the NBA season. Despite aging all stars and inexperience, hope springs eternal in every fan’s heart right about now. Several years ago, as I was watching the Los Angeles Lakers play their first game, I noticed something about the play of the modern NBA players: everyone is so selfish. It’s now so rare to see players play for their teammates or sacrificially pass the ball so that someone else will stand out and get the recognition that comes with it. From the star player on the team to the new rookie who needs to prove himself, it just feels like everyone is out to embellish their statistics, perhaps in the hopes of gaining more fame and maybe a bigger contract. 

Our passage today is basically a list of people’s names. It reads much like the book of 1 Chronicles with its long lists of names that are difficult to pronounce, information that seems unneeded, and a chronology that seems insignificant. But here’s the important point, unlike our NBA players today, these are individuals who did their part in building the temple of God by playing well together as a team. 


Don’t underestimate the power of working together. While one talented individual can do great things, a group of dedicated people can do greater things. Sure, Nehemiah showed exceptional ability to organize and mobilize the various people to rebuild the walls, but what’s of note in this passage is how he’s name is not even mentioned. At least for this passage, it’s the men who serve and gave themselves to do their part to accomplish the greater task of rebuilding the wall, God chose to put their names in the Word. 

This chronology of names serves to remind us the New Testament principle that every person is to be involved in ministry because everyone has a job to do. God has given each of us a gift for the purpose of building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). Consider today whether you are a contributor or a consumer when it comes to your local church. If you are contributing, praise God! Continue to do so it with joy and fervor, and without complaining. If you find yourself more of a consumer, pray and ask God to help you find a ministry that is going to strengthen your church. Do it with joy and love. God will be honored in your service to Him. 

Prayer: Father, you have given me so much. Help me take the resources and opportunities you have blessed me with to bless others. May I demonstrate my love for you by honoring the church you died for. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 22

April 30, Saturday

Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, first posted on September 12, 2015, is written by Andy Kim who is an associate pastor at Radiance Christian Church in San Francisco.  Andy is a graduate of Northwestern University and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Peril of Not Paying Attention”

2 Kings 17:14-23

But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. 15 They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do like them. 16 And they abandoned all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made for themselves metal images of two calves; and they made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal.17 And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings[a] and used divination and omens and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger. 18 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only.

One sad situation in a relationship is when a guy believes that the girl likes him when, to her, he is no more than a friend.   Not getting the clue, he continues to launch useless and costly attempts to woo the girl.  Anything and everything, which to everyone else is an indication of her lack of interest, becomes misguided signals of interest to him.  We call this stubbornness, or the peril of not paying attention.  In today’s text, we see a stubborn nation that refused to listen to a patient God who, in his mercy, sends every prophet and seer to warn the Israelites of their sin.  

So, what led to Israel’s stubbornness against God?  First, their ears were more attentive to their own desires rather than to God’s.  We call this selective hearing and we’re so good at it.  For instance, we only like to listen to the positive encouragements of God, and refuse to listen to the hard truths of God because it makes us feel better.  Subsequently, this leads to creating our own notions of God’s character and will to fit our lives.  Secondly, selective hearing led Israel toward the path of preferring the idols of the nations that claimed to control elements critical to abundant harvest, such as rain and fertility (strong animals to till the land).  This resulted in Israel compromising their beliefs but also partaking in detestable practices of the world.  Because they stopped trusting God, they stopped following Him.  Ironically, the more stubborn the Israelites were being toward God, they became increasingly more accommodating to the things of the world. 

Take a moment and ask yourself: Has God been speaking to me? Sometimes we want the worldly things so bad that we won’t recognize the writing on the wall.  Like a guy who continues to misread the girl’s signals, we misread or ignore God’s.  Rather than allowing God to determine how or what is acceptable, we let the preconceived notions that we have created for ourselves to be “faith” itself; in this way we deceive ourselves to our own spiritual detriment—the peril of not paying attention. 

Let’s take some time to repent of our stubbornness and the ways in which we have ignored God.  Listen to what God is saying and allow Him to restore our faith in Him rather than the fleeting desires of the world.  Let us dive into the Scriptures to remind ourselves who God truly is rather than the user-friendly version we’ve concocted.  

Prayer: Holy and righteous God, I confess my tendency to speak a false truth into my reality that is so influenced by trends, culture, and social media.  I repent of having compromised my morals and values rooted in your eternal Word.  Help me to accept the hard truths that You have been speaking to me.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today:  Genesis 20-21

April 29, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 9, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“The Best Sermon I Ever Gave: The One That I Never Got to Preach”

Luke 15:23-4 (NIV) 

“Bring the fattened calf and kill it.  Let’s have a feast and celebrate. [24] For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.”

Matt. 21:28-31 (NIV)

“What do you think?  There was a man who had two sons.  He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ [29] ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. [30] Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing.  He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. [31] Which of the two did what his father wanted?  ‘The first,’ they answered.”

Many years ago, my youth group’s drama team, during a Sunday service, did a skit about the prodigal son, who, after having returned home and the weeklong welcome home party, needed to return to work. In view of the fact that he had left the farm because he chose to play over work, the prospect of returning to farm work probably did not appeal to him.  Anyway, following the skit, I planned to show in my sermon that true salvation produces changes, like the first son in the Matthew parable who, after changing his mind (i.e., repenting), obeyed his father and went to work in the vineyard.  

James, frowning on “faith” that elicits no changes, says, “What good is it . . .  if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?  Can such faith save them?”  (James 2:14).  That is, merely saying that I believe, like “the demons [who] believe . . . and shudder” (2:19), is not adequate evidence for true faith.  

As for the skit, the drama team, being creative, presented two prodigal sons who, after the weeklong party, are told by the father to rise up early to work; being grateful, they eagerly assure him that they would. But once the early morning arrives, the undisciplined sons struggle to rise: While son #1 fails to get up at all, son #2 shows up but very late.  The father isn’t upset but understanding.  By the week’s end, son # 2 finally arrives on time while the other son, seeing that he doesn’t get punished, becomes brazen and makes no effort to get up for work.  On this day, unlike previous days, the father pays the sleeping son a visit around noon; meanwhile the audience assumes that the father is going to punish the ungrateful son for taking his grace for granted.  But, instead, the father says to his lazy and ungrateful son, “Let’s go have lunch.” What? At that moment, the song based on Romans 2:4 is played in the background: “It’s your kindness that leads us to repentance, O Lord, knowing that you love us, no matter what we do, makes us want to love you too.”  Well, at that moment, everyone begins to lose it, including myself, being overcome by a lucid demonstration of God’s amazing grace bestowed on unworthy sinners like you and me. 

I never got to preach that day because God’s word had already been declared through that skit.  Instead, for an hour or so, we prayed and praised God, some in tears but all with a deep sense of gratitude toward God. The right information is necessary but is insufficient to change our selfish heart; rather, it is the realization of God’s amazing love bestowed upon callous and ungrateful people, in the power of the Holy Spirit, that brings out a real conviction—a first and necessary step toward lasting changes. Today, be more mindful of being grateful to God; show it by being kind to undeserving people around you.

Prayer: O God, how beautiful and precious is Your amazing love for me! Your grace and mercy are like a deep well where there is no end to life-giving water that quenches thirst for meaning and life.   I love You, Lord, for the way You always take me back no matter what I do.  That motivates me to change.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 19


Lunch Break Study

Read James 2:20-4 (NIV): “You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? [21] Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? [22] You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. [23] And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. [24] You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.”

Matt. 7:17-20 (NIV): “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.”

Tit. 3:5-6 (NIV): “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 

6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior. . .”

Question to Consider

1. What is the clear teaching found in all the passages?

2. Why are changes expected in a person who is saved?  That is, is salvation a matter of agreeing to a set of correct information about salvation, or along with that, the Holy Spirit coming into our hearts?

3. What are some inherent dangers when we wonder about the salvation of those who do not show much changes?  What are some areas that you need to work on to bring your shortcomings under the Lordship? 

Notes

1. Jesus and Apostle James expected that those who say they are saved demonstrate it by corresponding work or changes.  Faith alone without work is grounds for questioning the authenticity of that faith.  Martin Luther: “We are saved by faith alone but not by faith that is alone.”

2. The gospel is the necessary information without which salvation is not possible; and the Holy Spirit turns that information into the truth that organically changes the heart. This doesn’t necessarily mean visible changes right away, but it does mean initial changes in intent, desire, will and attitude (inward dimension).

3. There are several dangers: one, judging people based on a small sample; two, since the faith journey fluctuates for many it would be unfair to judge them when they are momentarily down.  I prefer that we examine our own salvation (2 Cor. 13:5) instead of someone judging it (1 Cor. 4:5). 


Evening Reflection

As you review today, what were some good and constructive things you did today that you wouldn’t have done if you weren’t a believer.  That, in short, may be part of the work that affirms your salvation.

April 28, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional is a reprint of Kate Moon’s blog originally posted on October 23, 2015.  Kate continues to serve the Lord in E. Asia. 

Devotional Thought for this Morning

“The Prerequisite to Enjoy Watching ‘Modern Family’”

Ezra 9:3-6

“When I heard this, I tore my tunic and cloak, pulled hair from my head and beard . . . And I sat there appalled until the evening sacrifice.  Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God and prayed: ‘O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.’”

I remember the first time someone told me their favorite T.V. show was “Modern Family.”  They were describing it to me, and it just sounded so sad that this was what was being promoted as being definitive of what families are today.  Then I watched it, and I understood the point the show was trying to make, appreciating its depictions of warm moments between family members.  And I found myself trying to minimize what had been disturbing to me at first so that I could just enjoy the show for what it was. At the same time, I also found myself wondering if this was the new standard to which I had to become desensitized in order to enjoy any kind of entertainment these days—and whether this was worth it. This is to ask, “Is this the prerequisite in order to enjoy watching a popular show that deviates from God’s truth?”

Becoming more open-minded as a society has mostly been a positive change—we’ve come to accept one another’s differences more, embracing multi-culturalism, and fighting violence stemming from prejudice.  Yet in the name of tolerance and understanding, have our hearts become dull when it comes to looking at sin?  Ezra’s reaction to the discovery of sin among the people was a strong and emotional one.  When was the last time we got emotional about finding sin, in others’ lives or our own?  Not counting being angry or upset because someone has sinned against us, or depressed because we are suffering the consequences of our own bad judgments, but genuinely upset because God was being so wronged.  

Ezra felt appalled, ashamed and disgraced, and we should take note.  When our hearts have grown so calloused to sin, seeing this man’s reaction is a refreshing reminder of what it is like when someone truly loves God first, taking His side before anyone else’s.  After all that He had done for his people, this was how they treated Him (vv. 8-10).  Ezra not only saw things the way God did, through the lens of His word, he felt them with His heart.  What is the state of our hearts today?

Prayer: Lord, I am kind of appalled at the state of my own heart.  There is much that I am not bothered by anymore, in my own life, in others’.  Forgive me and sensitize my heart once again.  In Jesus’ name I pray.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 18


Lunch Break Study 

Read Ezekiel 11:19-20: “ I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. 20 Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.’”

Questions to Consider

1. When people receive a heart of flesh, what will this new heart cause them to do?  

2. What does this say about what it means to have a “heart of flesh” in this context?

3. In contrast, then, what kind of heart is a heart of stone?  On a scale of 1-10, how much would you say your heart is calibrated towards God’s standards and commands, moving you to live by His ways?

Notes

1. Move the people to live life by God’s laws.  

2. A “heart of flesh” doesn’t just mean one that is “soft towards people” or “warm and loving.” In this context, it is related to responsiveness to God’s laws and His ways.

3.   A heart that rejects God’s laws and does not move the people to live by them.  


Evening Reflection

What values did I encounter in the world today?  If you felt any godly distress, take a moment to take this to the Lord in sincere repentance on behalf of others or even yourself, and receive His mercy and grace.

April 27, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional provided by Cami King, now a friend of AMI, was first posted on August 10, 2015.  Cami served faithfully as a staff at several AMI churches in the past

Devotional Thoughts for This Morning

“The Sin of Greed”

2 Kings 6:1-7

Now the sons of the prophets said to Elisha, “See, the place where we dwell under your charge is too small for us. 2 Let us go to the Jordan and each of us get there a log, and let us make a place for us to dwell there.” And he answered, “Go.” 3 Then one of them said, “Be pleased to go with your servants.” And he answered, “I will go.” 4 So he went with them. And when they came to the Jordan, they cut down trees. 5 But as one was felling a log, his axe head fell into the water, and he cried out, “Alas, my master! It was borrowed.” 6 Then the man of God said, “Where did it fall?” When he showed him the place, he cut off a stick and threw it in there and made the iron float. 7 And he said, “Take it up.” So he reached out his hand and took it.

Last week we read a story about Gehazi, a servant of the prophet Elisha. For whatever reason – be it greed or leaning too heavily upon his own understanding – Gehazi went behind Elisha’s back and took payment from Naaman (whom Elisha had healed) after Elisha had refused it. Gehazi then lied to Elisha about what he’d done when Elisha (already aware of what had happened) questioned him about it. As a result he was struck with leprosy. In direct contrast to that narrative we have our passage for today. Here, unnamed disciples of Elisha display meticulous piety, devotion, and sacrifice in their service to Elisha in contrast to Naaman’s unfaithfulness.  

It is often said that Gehazi greedily sought riches (and became a leper as a result) while these men faithfully sought the things of God and were content with material poverty as long as God (through the prophet) was made available to them. I think this is a fair way of seeing things and much can be learned from this understanding. However, last week we looked at Gehazi’s story from a different perspective, instead imaging him as not merely a greedy man, but one who in a tough spot (the life of a prophet – and his servants – was no cakewalk), compromised and yielded to temptation. Leaning too heavily upon his own understanding of things (thinking, “We earned this payment!”), he found himself in sin and condemnation. 

In light of these things, what do we stand to learn from today’s passage? That God rewards those who faithfully serve Him. But not only this, He comes to their aid, even in seemingly trivial matters. One of Elisha’s disciples lost a borrowed ax head (expensive!) and instead of brushing it off (thinking, “It was an accident!” or “It’s not mine anyway!”), he cared deeply about what had happened. And God comes to His aid (through Elisha). I can’t help but recall Jesus’ words about the sparrow. If God’s eye is even upon the little birds, He certainly watches over his servants as well and will help them when they need Him (even in small matters) – especially for those who strive to live faithfully for Him. 

So whether you’re being tempted by greed or any other sin into unfaithfulness or you’re feeling weak in the face of a difficult season to cut corners and compromise – take heart! Even in the little things, God sees and provides according to His glorious riches. Faithfulness is always rewarded. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, help me to remember that faithfulness is always rewarded. When I am tempted to sin and to do things my own way, help me to trust in You and give you room to come to my aid in ways that exceed what I could think or imagine. Thank you for loving me so much that you are attentive to my needs – even the small ones.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 17


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 10:26-33: “So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why is it important that we not fear man? 
  2. What point is Jesus making in verses 29-30? What does this tell us about God’s heart for us in light of the previous verse? 
  3. In what ways do you deny God before men? How have these verses encouraged or challenged you to acknowledge Him instead?


Notes

  1. It is easy for us to fear what we can see – especially other people. But we give them more power than they actually have. At the same time, we don’t fear God often times for the simple fact that we cannot see him and have no real concept of his power and majesty. But He has power over everything (even our eternal destiny) and therefore is the only one worthy of fear.
  2. While it is important that we have a proper fear of the Lord, it is also crucial that we understand His great love for us. Yes, He has to power to take and give life (eternally!), but He has chosen to wield His power on our behalf (best demonstrated in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus). Therefore we should rejoice and all the more live faithfully for Him. 
  3. We deny God in many different ways. We may outright deny Him with our words before others, or we may deny him with our actions of unfaithfulness before an on-looking world. Either way, a healthy fear of the Lord and a deep persuasion of His love for us should spur us on to faithfully acknowledge Him in thought, word, and deed. 

Evening Reflection

Can you recall a time when God was mindful of you and provided for your needs (even in small ways) as you’ve tried to live faithfully for Him? Spend some time reflecting on those moments and thanking God for His faithfulness. It is important that we revisit these moments to remind ourselves of God’s love and faithfulness so that we might be encouraged to continue to live faithfully for Him. Are you being tempted in a specific area toward unfaithfulness? Are you weary from a tough season and considering a compromise in your walk with the Lord? Offer these things to God, keeping in mind all that we studied today. God always rewards faithfulness and is mindful of us even in small matters. Ask for His help in the specific areas you need today. 

April 26, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 13, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Not All Ideas Are Equal”

Matt. 25:24-5 (ESV) 

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, [25] so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground.  Here you have what is yours.’ [26] But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! . . . [28] So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents.’”

In Marxism that “discount[s] the role of ideas in history” (Kramer 2001:3), ideas are a later development to justify an unjust economic structure so that the rich can continue to exploit the workers under a false pretense (i.e., pie in the sky).  The Scripture, however, begins with divine ideas originating from the mind of God.  It posits that beliefs based on wrong ideas, in time, will produce actions detrimental to individuals, society, and ultimately the kingdom. In this sense not all ideas are equal.

The Bible is replete with people with bad ideas. 

The servant with one talent in the parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30) did nothing with it because he held to an idea that his master was unfair and unreasonable; the master, none too displeased, called him “wicked” and “lazy.” Subsequently, his lone talent was given to those who had produced more with their talents.  The sad outcome of this bad idea: meaningless and boring existence on earth and, at the very least, no rewards in heaven.  The right idea: God, being fair and just, will “judge each man’s work impartially” (1 Pet. 1:17b).

The older son in the parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32) held fast to an idea that led to identifying himself as a hired servant under a harsh master who happens to be his own father.  Balking at the father’s favorable treatment of his wayward brother, he said, “All these years I’ve been slaving for you. . . yet you have never given me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends” (15:28).  The sad outcome of this bad idea: The older son lost out on a life of freedom and plenitude, despite the fact that “everything [the father] had was [his]” (15:31). The right idea: “If we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17).

Bad ideas among Christians also affect the missions of the church.  For instance, an elderly Baptist preacher, frowning on those who advocate missions, declared, “The world has already been reached in the first century”; he then quoted Col. 1:6: “All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing.”  Sadly, those hearing this shouted, “Amen!”  The sad outcome of this bad idea: no missions.  The right idea: God of the Bible is a missionary God who has commanded the church to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19b).

Then there are those, being so afraid that they might teach work-based salvation, who propagate that “Jesus guarantees eternal life to all who come to faith in Him, even if they later stop believing in Him.”  However, the parable of the Talents teaches us to work, not to gain salvation but to demonstrate it.  The sad outcome of this bad idea: a rude awakening (with hell to follow) when the Lord says to those who had adhered to this bad idea, “I don’t know you and where you come from” (Lk. 13:25b).  The right idea: “We are saved by grace alone but not by grace that is alone” (Martin Luther).

Paul’s idea, given through the Spirit’s inspiration, of combatting bad ideas is this: “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:1).  Therefore, seriously and prayerfully study the Bible and allow your findings to reform your worldview that has been shaped by progressive secularism, which denies the existence of core truth that is true everywhere and at all times.

Here are some examples: whereas those who are born as biological males cannot get pregnant, those who are born as biological females who have made themselves appear as men and assumed male gender, can get pregnant (Gn. 1:27-28); human life begins at conception (Ps. 139:13-14); favoritism is wrong (Rom. 2:11). And after boldly and prudently articulating God’s eternal truth in your public space, “if the world hates you, know that it has hated [our Lord] before it hated you” (Jn. 15:18).  So make sure to “fix [y]our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2b).

Prayer: Dear God, I praise you for Your holy Scripture that clearly declares Your wonderful attributes and will for our lives.  Forgive me for spending more time reading and watching worldly sources to be informed than reading your Word.  I pray that the Spirit in me stirs my mind so that I may truly understand your Word.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 16


Lunch Break Study

Read Ez. 8:12 (NIV):  He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of Israel are doing in the darkness, each at the shrine of his own idol? They say, ‘The Lord does not see us; the Lord has forsaken the land.’”

1 Pet. 3:12 (NIV): “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

1 Cor. 15:32 (NIV): “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”  

Heb. 9:27 (NIV): “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,. . .”

Ps. 14:1 (NKJV): “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good.”

Question to Consider

1. Why are these ideas bad and incorrect?

2. What are the consequences of these bad ideas?

3. What are some ideas that you hold that really are incorrect in view of God’s ideas in the Bible? 

Notes

1. God, being omniscient, sees and hears all things at all times; death is not the end; judgment awaits; and God certainly does exist. 

2. Believing that God doesn’t see and hear would lead us to do whatever we want; believing that death is the end encourages us to live for pleasure; and not believing in God’s existence makes moral laws relative since there is no lawgiver.  In such a world, anything goes. 

3. Theologically, I no longer uphold certain doctrines that I was taught in my first church and seminary: prosperity theology, demons are the spirits of the deceased unbelievers; God always heals, etc.


Evening Reflection

You have probably spent enough time listening and reading the news and talking to interesting people.  What ideas did you hear today?  Are they agreeable to God’s ideas?  What is the most important idea from God’s word that is also important to you?  Offer up a prayer centered on that idea.