July 31, Wednesday

The AMI QT Devotionals for July 31 and August 1 are produced by Pastor Doug Tritton of Symphony Church in Boston. 

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Truly Human” (Part 1)

Genesis 1:26-28

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

What does it mean to be human? Is it simply our biology as a homo sapiens, the result of millennia of evolutionary tinkering? Or does it have something to do with the ability to reason – to think and create? Or is it something more?

Well, the Bible has a pretty clear answer to what being human is all about and it’s found right on the first page! When God created humankind, He created them in His own image. So, simply put, to be human is to be God’s image. Simple enough, right? But what does this actually mean? The word image comes from a Hebrew word that almost always is used to speak of idols of other gods. If you visit ancient temples of other gods, often you will see images of those gods on the walls of the temple. The word to speak of those kinds of idolatrous images is the word used to speak of humans as the image of God. What was the purpose of those images on the walls? Those images were meant to tell a story about who that god was so that people in the temple could worship.

When God created the heavens and the earth, on the last day, at the end of creation, He created humans and called them His image. He created a massive temple – namely, all of the world – and adorned it with his image, humans. He placed them in creation and said, “Look! This is my image. They point creation to me! They are my objects of worship.” If creation wanted to know who God was, humans as God imagers were to show this to the world. And thus, worship comes to God.

We exist as worship. We are objects of worship in God’s great big creation temple. To be truly human means to know that our life is all about worship. A life without worship is a subhuman life. We were created to be worship of God, to point creation upwards to the reality that God is our creator and thus worthy of all creation’s worship.  

Prayer: Lord, thank You that you created us, Your image bearers. Help us to remember our primary function is to bring worship to You. May we not neglect worship in our lives. Rather, may we truly be human and lead all of creation into worship of You!

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 14


Lunch Break Study  

Read Romans 12:1-2: I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Questions to Consider

  1. According to this passage, what is our spiritual worship?
  2. What is the barrier to us being living sacrifices of worship to God?
  3. How can you offer your life today as a living sacrifice? What worship is God asking of you now?

Notes

  1. Our spiritual worship, according to this passage, is to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. This means our whole lives – our actions, thoughts, emotions, relationships, time, money, possessions, all of it – is meant to be given as worship of God. Our identity as humans is worship so that means everything in our lives is meant to be for God.
  2. Being conformed to the world is the barrier to living out our identity as objects of worship. When we as the image of God stop imaging Him and rather image the world, we have become a broken and useless image. We have been corrupted. The source of an image’s identity is the one who is being imaged – to conform to anything else destroys the worship we are meant to bring.
  3. Pray and allow God to speak and show you how he wants you to worship him this day! 

Evening Reflection

As you get ready to sleep tonight, reflect on your identity as a worship-bringer of God. Reflect on how worship has been incorporated into your life and invite God to show you how you can make His worship more central in your life.

July 30, Tuesday

The AMI QT Devotionals for July 29-30 are written by Pastor Ryun Chang. 

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“He is Good”

Psalm 5:8, 11-12

Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness because of my enemies —make straight your way before me. 11 But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.  Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. 12 For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.

 Sometimes we wonder where God is in our turbulent times and are dismayed when our reality doesn’t change or turn for the better (Ps. 22).  If that’s how we—living in the comforts of West—feel, how much more so for those believers living in closed countries where threats to their lives are a present reality. 

The LORD, of course, has His reasons for allowing all that, which we may find out about later; meanwhile, we mustn’t forget that God remains our shield and refuge who protects us!  It doesn’t mean that He will always deliver us physically, but it certainly means that His grace for us will always be sufficient during our difficult moments. 

What does that entail?  The apostle Paul, locked up in a Roman dungeon, said (2 Tim. 4:17-18), “The Lord stood by me and strengthened me . . . I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”  God surely did that for Paul–rescuing him from the lion’s mouth–nevertheless, shortly thereafter, the Romans executed the apostle anyway . Is God still good?  Paul would say without any hesitation, “Yes, God is good”—ultimately, because of the sacrificial death of God’s Son on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21).  

So today, take a moment to meditate on the goodness and kindness of our LORD.  Take refuge in Him throughout the day! Are you following God as He leads?  As He spreads His protection over you, are you remaining in Him?  Praying (unhurriedly) and meditating on God’s Word is not sufficient to remain in Him but they are necessary: So, pray and meditate on Scripture today. 

Prayer: Dear Jesus, I recognize Your active involvement in my life, to transform my faith and character, and the way I live.  Thank You for the difficult situations because through them, I experience Your active presence in my life, as my refuge and shield.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 13


Lunch Break Study

Read Ezra 7:1, 6, 8:21-23: Now after this, in the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, son of Azariah, son of Hilkiah . . . 6 this Ezra went up from Babylonia. He was a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses that the Lord, the God of Israel, had given, and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the Lord his God was on him . . . Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods. 22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him.” 23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.

Heb. 12:14: Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Questions to Consider

  1. Who said this and to whom was this said?
  2. Why did this person say this2 (Ez. 8:22)?
  3. What really concerned Ezra here with respect to his boss, the pagan king? 
  4. Do you think people base their view of God by observing those who claim to believe and 

follow Him (Heb.12:14; 1 Pet. 2:12)?  

Notes

  1. The teacher of Law Ezra said this to the Persian king Artaxerxes before making a dangerous trip to Jerusalem that would last for 4 months
  2. Having told the king how God protects His people, Ezra felt ashamed to ask him for soldiers and horsemen to protect them from enemies on the road.
  3. Ezra was greatly concerned about how the pagan king Artaxerxes would view God based on how he actually conducted himself.  Thus, he gave up the military protection in order to make a favorable spiritual impact on his boss. This necessitated that Ezra really depended on the Lord, which he did. 
  4. Both verses imply that, first, unbelievers are watching; second, the holy and kindly manner in which we live can make a favorable spiritual impact.

Evening Reflection

In reviewing today, what kind of spiritual impact (or lack thereof) did you make on unbelievers at your work or with your family?  Perhaps you thought about doing something but lacked boldness! Pray, therefore, for boldness. Then prayerfully consider who God wants you to reach.

July 29, Monday

The AMI QT Devotionals for July 29-30 are written by Pastor Ryun Chang. 

 

Devotional Thoughts for Today

“Two Things to Which We Have Become Numbed”

Psalm 5:4-7

For You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell.  5 The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. 6 You destroy those who tell lies; blood-thirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors.  7 But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple.

When Lot, upon being told of the impending God’s judgment against Sodom and Gomorrah over “their sin so grievous” (Gn. 18:20 NIV), told his sons-in-law to “get out of this place,” they “thought he was joking” (19:14). Having lived in a sin-saturated world for a long time, these men lost the ability to take seriously the things of God.  They, along with others, soon perished. 

Are we any different? Living in a sin-saturated world as well (where people celebrate a law that allows babies to die after birth), we have become numbed to sin. We even change labels to make sin appears as if it is a physiological condition, i.e., disease or syndrome (e.g., a book on mental disorder calls infidelity, hypersexual disorder).

Thus, the concept of a loving God is much easier to accept than a holy God who hates sin!  But none of this changes who God is and the holy life that He commands us to live (1 Pet. 1:15). God isn’t demanding us to be holy and moral so that He can accept us; rather, He asks us to trust that what His Son accomplished on the cross is sufficient to redeem us from sins.  

Look, you can call sin whatever you want but that doesn’t change the fact that sin costs (e.g., eternal separation from God), hurts, and ultimately robs us of a joyous and meaningful life.  But, in Christ and through the Holy Spirit, God gives us the power to overcome sin! So, what issues are you currently struggling with? Don’t delay dealing with them; go to the Lord, today!  Confess your sins and turn from them.

Nevertheless, even worse that being numbed to our sins is being numbed to God’s grace.  Yes, sometimes we are so numbed spiritually that we don’t realize what we have received from the Lord.  Grace is receiving favors from God that we don’t deserve while mercy is not being punished even though we deserve it.  In what ways has the Lord been gracious and merciful toward you? Confess God’s goodness bestowed on your life and turn toward Him. 

Prayer: Dear Lord, I know that You are a benevolent and kind God who deeply cares about me.  I bring to You my struggles, which I am not able to overcome in my own strength. Please deliver me from them through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 12


Lunch Break Study

Read John 8:3-11 (ESV): The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” 6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. 7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Who said this and to whom was this said (Jn. 8:3-6)?
  2. Why did Jesus say this, presumably after writing the Law on the ground (James 2:10-11)?
  3. Why did Jesus get rid of the hostile leaders before speaking to the woman (Ps. 51:3-4)?
  4. Was He being lenient toward sin?  Why did He let her go like this (Jn. 5:14; Rom 2:4)?

Notes

  1. Jesus said this to the religious leaders who brought a woman caught in adultery to entrap Jesus.
  2. Those accusing her acted as if they had never sinned, forgetting that it takes only one sin to make the person a sinner
  3. Ultimately, it was none of their business, for she sinned against God, not against them. Also, since they were sinners themselves, they had no right to condemn her.
  4. Jesus was showing the way of the New Covenant (NC), established on His perfect sacrifice, by showering her with grace and mercy. The NC is not lenient on sin, for Jesus said to her, “Leave your life of sin” and to the man healed of paralysis, “Stop sinning or something worse may happen.”  But through His kindness, Jesus was leading them to repentance.

Evening Reflection

We began the day dealing with a difficult issue: our struggle with sin.  Were you tempted to sin today? How did you fare? Did you sense His presence in overcoming it?  Pray for His guidance and protection over all that will go on tomorrow.

July 28, Sunday

Today’s blog, written by Pastor Young Kim of Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia, was originally posted on June 25, 2013.

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“The Power of Words”

Proverbs 25:11

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.”

Once again, we are reminded of the power of our words.  I have realized that we need to ask God for much wisdom for the words we choose to say, how we will say it, and even the tone we will use.  We can avoid much unnecessary “drama” if we get all these three into a much healthier and wiser place. Ask for wisdom to speak words that will bring great blessings to those around you. 

So, I suggest today that you write a letter of encouragement to about three people.  You should send it to them or keep it and send it some other time. Also, write a letter to yourself about how you can be wiser with your words.  To whom are you in the habit of using your words unwisely? Ask God for grace to change this cycle. 

Prayer: Lord, give me wisdom to say something wise and loving to those I love.  Let my words edify, not tear down. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  2 Kings 11

July 27, Saturday

Today’s blog, written by Pastor Young Kim of Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia, was originally posted on June 24, 2013.

 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Loving the Unlovable”

Proverbs 24:17-18

Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice,18 or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them.

Someone told me that I should pray for those whom I had difficult time liking.  I was asked to pray that God’s favor and blessing would be poured upon those who really rubbed me the wrong way.  In the beginning as I took his advice, my prayers were so fake, but slowly I found myself praying genuinely for them.  It took time, but God gave me the grace to have compassion for them. Prayer is powerful—it can change our childish attitudes to be more like that of Jesus.

How about you?  Is there someone you struggle to love? Is there someone who just annoys you?  Is there a person who you dislike so much that you feel good when bad things happen to him or her? Spend time being honest with God about these relationships.  You can complain and be honest about why you struggle. You can even tell God all the reasons you have for not liking them. Then after an honest prayer, you need to repent and ask God’s grace to forgive and love them.  Many times, this is not a one-time breakthrough; it could be a lifetime process.  

Write out a prayer of blessing for them.  You might not be able to finish it but at least start it. 

Prayer: Lord, give me grace to love my enemy and to bless those whom I don’t particularly like.  Give me strength to move from praying a fake blessing to having genuine compassion from the heart. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  2 Kings 9-10

July 26, Friday

This AMI Devotional QT, prepared by the staff at Remnant Church Westside (NYC), was originally posted on September 6, 2013. 

 

Devotional Thought for Today

“No, God Hasn’t Changed”

Psalm 85:1-7

Lord, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. 2 You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah 3 You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. 4 Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! 5 Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? 6 Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? 7 Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.

In many people’s minds, there is a false dichotomy when it comes to understanding the character of God: that the God of the OT is a wrathful deity, while the God of the New Testament is all about grace and love. Yet, when we examine the Old Testament texts such as this Psalm, God is full of grace and love, and as a result, we are reminded that God is unchanging. The psalmist points to the forgiveness of God in the past as an encouragement to ask for forgiveness in their current circumstances. They are able to call on the character of God for his salvation, forgiveness, and grace; for God’s desire is to see people rejoice in Him, rather than to suffer.

The heart of God for us is not that we suffer, but be redeemed; therefore, He calls us to repent so that God would make us right before Him again and again, instead of driving us out from His presence. Yes, God is angry over sin, but He never changes His desire to redeem us. Therefore, God’s anger over sin and its rightful punishment was taken by Christ on the cross.  This morning, God is asking you to readjust your understanding of repentance. If you have been hiding your sins from God, fearful of what He would say, remember that God’s love for you is steadfast. Ask God to cover your sins; because Christ has taken on the punishment, we can come boldly before Him to repent.

Bible Reading for Today: 2 Kings 8


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 1:12-14: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

Paul’s friends were concerned about him being imprisoned or under house arrest, which meant that he was chained to a Roman soldier 24/7, and guards would switch out regularly on shifts. But Paul reassures them, saying that it is clear that he is imprisoned for Jesus, and that it has been a blessing instead of a curse, since he has been able to share Jesus with his captors. It’s as if Paul was saying, “I’m not chained to them … They are chained to me!”

Questions to Consider

  1. In what situations do you lose your courage in sharing the gospel? What are some ways we can overcome our fear in such circumstances?
  2. If you were chained to someone for eight hours, how long would it be before you would talk about Jesus? How can you bring up the topic of Jesus sooner than that?
  3. Has God placed you in a special environment where He wants you to be a witness? Bring this before the Lord in prayer and ask Him for opportunity and boldness!

Background tidbit:

The reference to the imperial guard in v. 13 suggests a Roman setting, which is one reason it is believed that Paul wrote this letter during his imprisonment in Rome.

Note

  1. The mere thought of sharing the gospel makes most people feel nervous and anxious.  One way to overcome this fear is to pray for God’s boldness and then open our mouth to speak.  It would help tremendously if we have thought about what to say beforehand.
  2. It is hard to remind ourselves of this inevitable reality, but it bears repeating: Our friend or relative who does not believe in Jesus will go to hell. If that doesn’t motivate us, I don’t know what will.
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power” (Ps. 21:13). 

Jesus, You are inviting me to grow in the knowledge of You, to be strengthened with all power according to Your glorious might so that I may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully give thanks to You. I declare that You will be strong in my daily life and I will praise You.  Tonight, declare His strength over an area where you need to be strong.

July 25, Thursday

Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by Pastor Barry Kang of Symphony Church in Boston, was originally posted on April 4, 2013.

 

Devotional Thought for Today

Why Sing a New Song?

Psalm 33:3 (NIV)

Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. 

As a young Christian, wishing at times that we would sing some new songs during the worship service, I would look to verses like Psalm 33:3 as validation for my desire.  However, upon examining my motivation, I recognized that it was because I was (a little) bored of the old songs (which indicated that my heart wasn’t in the right place).   

So why does the psalmist encourage us to sing a new song to the Lord? It turns out, the answer has everything to do with God and very little to do with us!  We sing a new song to God with our lives and lips as a celebration of the ever- newness of the living God with whom we are in a love-relationship. We sing a new song to the Lord as a declaration that we will not be satisfied with our present understanding of who he is—for he is far greater!  We sing a new song as an expression of trust that God is not only the God of our past but also our present and future. We are to sing new songs because God is still working in us, living among us and shaping and directing us.

Sometimes we can get stuck living in our past glories when it comes to God.  We may reminisce about the days when we were passionate for God and resign ourselves to think that it may happen again.  Well, God is not done with us yet! Let’s ask God today to bring freshness to our hearts even if our relationships with Him have gone stale. 

Prayer: Father, I thank You that You’re not done with me yet, that I have yet to experience and know Your full glory and majesty.  Until then, help me to keep growing in mind and heart, that I may constantly have an urge to sing new songs of Your continuing faithfulness in my life.  In Jesus’s name, I pray. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  2 Kings 7


Lunch Break Study

Read Isaiah 43:16-19 (NIV): This is what the Lord says— he who made a way through the sea, a path through the mighty waters,  17who drew out the chariots and horses, the army and reinforcements together, and they lay there, never to rise again, extinguished, snuffed out like a wick: 18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. 19 See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Isaiah was speaking to the Israelites who would one day be exiled in Babylon.  How does Isaiah introduce God in verses 16-17? Why would this be significant?
  2. Why does God ask the Israelites to no longer dwell in the past?  Since God does not contradict himself, what does he mean here?
  3. What is the new thing God is doing in Isaiah 43:19 (cf. Isaiah 43:20-21; 2:3; 65:17-18)?

Singing new songs to God does not mean we forsake the old.  God is still the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He is still the God of the exodus.  He is still the God who saved and has loved us through Jesus Christ. But God is not done with us yet.  We have not yet given unto the Lord the fullest praise that is due to him because we still haven’t fully comprehended his majesty and worth.  Until that day comes, there will always be room for new songs!

Note

  1. In verses 16-17, Isaiah reminds the people of Israel that God is the God of the Exodus, who brought them through the Dead Sea and defeated the Egyptian armies pursuing them.  God is mighty, savior, deliverer and protector. For the Jews living in exile away from Israel this was an important reminder that what God had done in the past he could do it again.
  2. It may seem odd that after reminding his listeners about the great work that God did in the past, he tells them to forget the former things and not to dwell in their past.  Of course, God is not telling the Israelites to disregard what he had done in the past; instead, he tells them to forget their former ways. In other words, they are not to live by their old expectations of God, for He is doing a new thing, and certainly not in their old sinful ways of life.
  3. The new thing that God is doing in Isaiah 43 is to regather his chosen people in Jerusalem so that they can give him praise among the nations.  God will be praised among the gentiles now as well as the Jewish people.

Evening Reflection

Are there ways that you have grown in your understanding and experience of God in recent times?  In your journal, write your own song of praise. It doesn’t have to rhyme, be long or deep, but it ought to be authentic, which means it needs come from your heart; then sing your new song unto God!