July 13, Monday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Matt Ro who formerly pastored Journey Church in Atlanta, is an updated version of his blog originally posted on May 27, 2013.  Matt is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BS) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“What Is There to Dislike About Short-Term Mission Trip?”

Psalm 67:1-7 (ESV)

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah 2 that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. 3 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah 5 Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 6 The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. 7 God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

Introduction: Have you been on a short-term mission trip?  Did you like what you experienced in a foreign land?  Well, what is there to dislike? Seeing cool things, meeting new people, tasting different cuisines, and hearing exotic tunes. Right!  Now, answer this question: why should we do missions?  If you aren’t sure, then pay close attention to today’s morning devotional.

allec-gomes-on-feed-Vl26HXL7_ZM-unsplash

This psalm is often referred to as a missions psalm.  Alexander Maclaren writes:

“It has a clear anticipation of the universal spread of the knowledge of God, in its firm grasp of the thought that the Church has its blessings in order to the evangelization of the world, and in its intensity of longing that from all the ends of the earth a shout of praise may go up to the God who has sent some rays of his light into them all, and committed to his people the task of carrying a brighter illumination to every land.”

In v. 1, we see the Aaronic blessing of Numbers 6.  Here, a shining face implies favor and a friendly, warm personal relationship.  The implication is that God Himself is what the people of God are after.  But this extends into a desire for all nations (Gentile salvation) to know God (v. 2).  God’s blessing is to be upon the nations (vv. 3-5) and His desire is to reveal His Word through His people.  God desires worship and praise from all people.  It is the church’s responsibility to be a blessing in the light of having received God’s blessing (vv. 6-7); and in that future day, multitudes from all the nations of the earth will be praising God with us.

Why are we here?  Amazingly, God chooses to use the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.  In the New Testament, through some of the disciples (Peter and the apostle Paul) God revealed that salvation was for all mankind, not just for the Jews.  This psalm was written around the time that David was king or shortly thereafter, yet, even here we see this truth introduced: Let the peoples praise you, O God; let ALL the peoples praise you!  Psalm 67 ends: God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!  God has left us here to be a witness of God’s great love and salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.  Salvation is for all the nations!

Prayer:  Father, use me as a witness and testimony to everyone I come across today.  May my family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, sales clerks see Your face shining upon me.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 5


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 6:1-4 (ESV): Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” 4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Questions to Consider

  1. How does the idea of submission from Ephesians 5 extend into chapter 6?
  2. What is the role of fathers/mothers in this text?
  3. Examine your relationship with your children/parents today.  Is it one of submission, honoring, and nurturing?

Notes

  1. The relationship between children and parents is just one of the many submission relationships in Paul’s teachings (Eph. 5:21-6:9).  He exhorts children to obey their parents in the Lord, with the perspective that in the Lord they are no longer darkness but children of light.  Paul’s reference to the Ten Commandments, in this regard, goes to show the continual use of the law in the life of believers (as a guide of righteousness and holiness).   The result of such obedience is none other than blessings from the Lord.
  2. Although Paul does not mention mothers, they still have a responsibility and role in the upbringing of their children.  Paul simply focuses on the fathers since they are the head of the household and therefore have the main responsibility.  Paul’s exhortation to the fathers to refrain from provoking their children to anger suggests that this is a common temptation for fathers.  Instead, the kind of love we practice toward our children should be instructive (“bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”).  The word for instruction is “putting” the Lord’s words in the mind.
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Join me in offering this prayer to the Father:

“Dear God, thank You that You are the perfect Father for my life.  Help me to honor my parents in the same way that I honor You.  Help me to raise my children up in the instruction and training of the Lord.  Help me to refrain from provoking my children to anger or rebellion by allowing my personal emotions to bleed into how I interact with my children.  In Your Son’s name, I pray. Amen.

July 12, Sunday

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Peter Yoon of Kairos Christian Church in San Diego, is an updated version of his blog first posted on May 31, 2014.  Peter is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“What Grade Will Your Church Get?”

 Philippians 1:6

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

angela-bailey-75RsMxVoiDc-unsplashSport analysts often give grades to each team after a draft day. That’s the day in which collegiate athletes are drafted by professional teams that hope to find the next Michael Jordan or Lebron James. Some teams are given a confident outlook of the future and receive an “A” grade from the analysts. Other teams are given the horrid “F” and is projected to continue as losers in a highly competitive market. Sometimes they are right, while a lot of the times, they get it wrong.

In his letter to the Philippian church, Paul hands out a strong grade for the Philippian congregation. In this verse, he gives a greatly confident outlook as the day of Jesus was approaching. What made him so sure? Certainly, it was not the confidence in the people.

Every church gathers to herself broken people: fearful, proud, jealous, and the undisciplined people from all around. Eventually, you start noticing these flaws in your own church members. The Philippian church was also a gathering of flawed people. There were the typical grumblers and complainers, those who worried more than necessary, those who bragged and boasted about their accomplishments, thereby making others feel inferior. In fact, Paul goes as far as naming two ladies who kept bickering with each other, causing disunity in the body (4:2-3). However, despite such problematic people, Paul held a confident outlook about the Philippian church.

So how did the apostle manage to remain so upbeat?  First, we see that Paul’s focus seem to be on God, the One who starts a good work in a person, a community, or in a city. That is, the active agent here is God, not necessarily the Philippians believers. Second, that singular focus on God provides Paul the reassuring confidence that the good work of God will continue until the end, despite our brokenness. (Of course, there is the assumption that the believers of the Philippian church are yielding to the work of the Spirit.)

Perhaps, you are serving the Lord and have lost confidence in your church. Maybe you wonder whether things will ever get better for your small group members, or you are fighting ministry fatigue and discouragement.  During this COVID-19 season, many pastors are greatly concerned about the state of their church affected by a prolong social isolation.  But as long as you and the people in your church are seeking the Lord, be encouraged that as the day of the Lord approaches, God Himself is at work faithfully and will bring your church, small group, or ministry to maturity.

Prayer: Lord, keep my eyes focused upon You. You are the Author and the Perfecter of our faith. You began this family of God in Your sovereignty and Your purpose. You will faithfully mature our church, our people, our pastors, and our children. I admit my own perception of reality often depresses me, and I wonder if it’s even worth it. Renew my heart today. Lord, fix my eyes upon You and help me to also experience this confidence that Paul held. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 4

July 11, Saturday

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), is an updated version of his blog first posted on March 23, 2013.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“What is So Compelling About Nietzsche?”

Psalm 14:1a

The foo] says in his heart, “There is no God.”

annie-spratt-c-Ot-d_-NSk-unsplashMany years ago, a young man who attended my youth group in the mid-1980s sent me an email out of the blue; at the time, he was pursuing a Ph.D. in philosophy.  I remembered him well.  When he was still in my youth group, his mother, concerned that he was spending too much time praying and reading the Bible, asked me to tell him to tone it down. 

Upon reading his email however, it was now my turn to be concerned.  He wrote, “Lately I’ve been doing a lot of reading in Nietzsche [and] there is a worldview in his work that I find extremely compelling.  Of course, it is completely pagan, but that’s what makes it so compelling.”  Wondering about his faith, I thought to myself, “What is so compelling about Nietzsche—’a fool’, according to the Bible—who saw churches as no more than ‘tombs and sepulchers of a dead God?’”   

Nietzsche, whose father and maternal grandfather were Lutheran pastors, had nothing but disdain for Christianity.  He once said, “The most important of more recent events—that ‘god is dead’, that the belief in the Christian God has become unworthy of belief—already begins to cast its first shadows over Europe.”   Nietzsche also knew that, as the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky declared, “If God did not exist, everything would be permitted.”  Everything meant denying the existence of universal truth, including moral truth, which naturally leads to a post-truth world in which we find ourselves now.

Then what is left to validate our actions?  “Will to power,” which means, “I do what I will to do without allowing any guilt for having done so.”  People who think like this will not admit, for instance, that torturing babies, while they themselves wouldn’t do it, is inherently wrong.  Certainly, Hitler, having been influenced by Nietzsche (Zacharias 1994:18), thought that torturing the Jews was a good thing.

Therefore, Nietzsche disdained those atheists who sought to salvage Christian morality, much like what Paul Kurtz tried to do.  This famed secular humanist once declared, “Is it possible to be moral without the benefit of the clergy?  Of course, it is [because] it is possible to ground ethical choice in rational intelligence” (1983:7).   Scoffing at him, Nietzsche would’ve said, “Why do you still want to be moral since that comes from the idea of the Christian God.”   

One compelling thing about Nietzsche was his consistency in living out the ramification of rejecting God and his moral truths: this voluminous writer became insane and “spent his last 11 years in asylums and never wrote another page” (Kramer 2001:60).   So what does atheism have to do with him becoming insane?  According to Francis Schaeffer, “he understood that insanity was the only philosophic answer if the infinite-personal God does not exist” (1976:180).   

We can always find reasons to be dissatisfied with our lives but let us be reminded of this: Had God not invited us to believe in Him through faith in His Son Jesus, our lives would be so arbitrary and meaningless.   Be reminded of how great it is to know God personally.  And let us pray for our children.

Prayer: God help us to number our days.  Let us be grateful that You led us not only to know Your truth but to have a personal relationship with the Truth himself, Your son Jesus Christ.  Embolden us to share this truth during these dark and divisive days.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  1 Corinthians 2-3

July 10, Friday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Phillip Chen who is associate pastor at Kairos Christian Church in San Diego.  Phil is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“The Third-Option Amid Divisive Times”

Romans 12:10 (NIV)

Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.

“We live in divisive times.”

daiga-ellaby-tOnNqUUPp2Q-unsplashI’ve heard this statement far more times this year than I can count. Certainly, there is a lot of division and I don’t anticipate it to decrease but rather increase as the year progresses. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that the Church is not exempt from this divisiveness despite Jesus interceding for the Church in the High Priestly Prayer (John 17), in which he petitions the Father that the Church would be one. Of course, unity does not mean conformity in thought nor does it mean agreement in all things; but perhaps Romans 12:10 gives us a directive on how we can still come together in unity.

The biblical directive in this verse is devotion in the ways we love one another and preference towards others by the way we show honor. This is a difficult task, particularly with those with whom we disagree. It gets more difficult in the climate we are in with heightened anger, fear and disillusionment. But the Church must find a way to uphold this directive. We are in desperate need of peacemakers and bridge-builders in this hour.

Pastor Miles McPherson, his book The Third Option: Hope for a Racially Divided Nation, says “God’s Third Option invites us to honor that which we have in common, the presence of His image in every person we meet. When we honor the presence of His image in others, we acknowledge their priceless value as precious and beloved of God. The Third Option empowers us to see people through God’s eyes, which enables us to treat them in a manner that honors the potential of His image in us.” This is to say, when we choose to honor others (especially those with whom we disagree), we are asking God for the ability to see people through God’s eyes.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to this command, to love and honor others, is the spirit of offense. Offense is the biggest hindrance to honor. When someone offends us, all we can focus is their shortcomings and faults to the point that we leave no room for honor. One of my friends put it this way: “Offense kills our ability to love. You can’t love someone with whom you are offended, which is why we are commanded by God to prioritize reconciliation, forgive those who wrong us, and love our enemies. Being easily offended is a sign of immaturity and lack of character.”

I find this to be true in my life.  Whenever I am offended, my temptation and tendency is to become defensive and reject anything and everything that comes out of that person. I speak out against the spirit of offense because I have seen its deceptive and destructive ways in my own life as well as the lives of many in this country.

Brothers and Sisters, we are going to see and hear more things that are offensive and repulsive to us in so many ways. We will be tempted to hold onto offense and either lash out or hold onto unforgiveness. The spirit of offense is one of Satan’s greatest tactics to divide the Church. Let’s recognize the ways of the enemy and stand against it. When we struggle, let’s ask the Holy Spirit to help us to be devoted to one another in love and to give honor to others. It’s definitely not easy, but may the Holy Spirit empower us to “walk with humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-3).

Prayer: Father, help us to be devoted to one another in love. Help us to honor one another before ourselves. We need the power of your Holy Spirit. Come and change us and revive our hearts. In Jesus’ Name I pray, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: 1 Corinthians 1


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 4:1-7 (ESV): I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Question to Consider

  1. What characteristics in this passage are we encouraged to emulate?
  2. In what way does this Unity look like?
  3. How can I promote unity within my local church body or even the local churches within my city?

Notes

  1. Paul encourages the believers to be humble, gentle, patient, and bearing with one another in love. We also see an emphasis to maintain unity. Paul encourages us to be “eager” to maintain the unity of the Spirit. Particularly towards the Body of Christ, we are to desire unity.
  2. Unity does not necessarily mean that all churches should become one, but rather than we remember the one Lord that we are called under. We remember the one Father God who is over all, through all, and in all. We are united under the banner of Christ.
  3. Personal Response.

Evening Reflection

Think about anyone toward whom you may have bitterness and unforgiveness. Take a moment and bring them before God and ask for the courage to forgive. Even if the feelings of forgiveness are not fully there yet, it is a declaration to God that you have surrendered the right to condemn them in your heart. Pray a prayer of blessing upon them and ask God for peace. May God continue to cleanse our hearts and make us whole.

July 9, Thursday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor David Kwon who heads Journey Community Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, is an updated version of his blog first posted on November 13, 2013.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (BS) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“A Reminder to Us When We Are Going through a Trial”

Psalm 102:1-22 (NIV)

Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you. 2 Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. 3 For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. 4 My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. 5 In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones. 6 I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. 7 I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof. 8 All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse. 9 For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears 10 because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. 11 My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass. 12 But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. 13 You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her; the appointed time has come. 14 For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity. 15 The nations will fear the name of the Lord, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory. 16 For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory. 17 He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea. 18 Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord: 19 “The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth, 20 to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.” 21 So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem 22 when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.

therese-westby-CzET_4rvvD4-unsplashWhen we’re going through times of difficulty, particularly during this season of COVID-19 and social unrest, the last things we want to hear are the all-too-familiar platitudes like, “Everything happens for a reason!” or “God is working on you for your own good!” Not that those things aren’t true (because they are), but when we are lost in the thick darkness or parched in the wilderness of life, they bring little comfort.

The psalmist, having offered this prayer while going through a tough trial, shows us how to deal with hardships in our lives.  First, the psalmist goes before God, and there, he honestly shares the awfulness of his circumstances and pleads for relief through a divine intervention. He doesn’t blame God for His problems, rather, he acknowledges God’s sovereignty over them.  Second (and most importantly), the psalmist remembers who God is: a loving Father who cares for His children and the things that matter to them; He never leaves or abandons them. And this is not a mere platitude for the psalmist; it’s a conviction based on God’s very reliable track record.

Are you going through a tough time today? Let this Psalm encourage you. Go to God and tell Him exactly how you’re feeling. Plead for His intervention while acknowledging His great love and faithfulness.  Subsequently, you may see that your difficult moment is more than bearable.  It is also a great opportunity to store up fond memories of God’s care so that we will be encouraged even more the next time when trials come our way.

Prayer: Lord, our country is going through really a rough time right now. As our lives are being affected by it, may it change us for better by way of aligning ourselves to God’s will—His good, pleasing and prefect will. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Romans 16


Lunch Break Study

Read Isaiah 40:27-31 (ESV): “Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’? 28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary they will walk and not be faint.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What do verses 27 and 28 tell you about our typical response to times of difficulty?
  2. What does Isaiah remind his readers in the remaining verses? How do his words encourage you?
  3. What does Isaiah remind us when we are going through a trial?

Notes

  1. When the going gets tough, we often overlook God’s control in our lives, forgetting that He knows everything and that His eyes are always upon us. Instead of being comforted from knowing that our sovereign God has a heart full of love for us, we often get worried or anxious.  We complain about our circumstances while some of us even complain about our God.
  2. In Isaiah’s day, God’s people responded to difficulties in quite the same way:  complaining and losing sight of God.  The prophet, therefore, reminds them of who God really is.  First, the Lord, being omnipotent, doesn’t get tired or quit when the going gets tough. Second, being omnipresent, God not only knows all things but is in control of them at all times.  Lastly, the faithful Lord is committed to those who hope in Him; He strengthens and sustains them through even the fiercest storms of life.
  3. It’s easy to lose sight of God when times are difficult, even forgetting just how good God is; occasionally, we feel as if He has forgotten us. But Isaiah reminds us to keep our hope in Him! Hebrews 10:23 tells us to hold on without wavering in our hope because our God is faithful. Have you lost sight of God’s faithfulness? Take sometime to declare the faithfulness of God and your hope in Him. Meditate on Isaiah’s declaration today and let it encourage you.

Evening Reflection

When I was in college, I watched a video of Pastor Louis Giglio talking about God’s glory as seen in the human body (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F0-NPPIeeRk). I remember being so encouraged by the ways in which God truly holds all things together in my life and in this world. Romans 8:32 tells us that “He who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things.” The cross is the greatest reminder that God has our back. Even when life is difficult, we know that God has already gone to the greatest length imaginable on our behalf (in sending His son to die for our sins). How much more will He hold us together in times of storm?

July 8, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, is an updated version of his blog first posted on April 23, 2013.  He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“That Which is More Important to God Than Sacrifices and Offerings”

Psalm 40:6-8

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. 7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—it is written about me in the scroll. 8 I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

paul-keiffer-J9iJZlH1H9M-unsplashAre sacrifices and offerings necessary?   If we are asking whether a life of following Jesus indeed requires costly decisions and surrender, then the answer is quite clearly Yes (see Luke 9:23).  Indeed, if properly understood, the essence of worship is sacrifice and offerings.  What we have in Psalm 40:6 is a kind of Jewish hyperbole.  David is not saying that God does not want sacrifices and offerings from us.  Rather, God desires something more:  our obedience.  All the sacrifices and offerings mean nothing if they come from a heart that does not desire the will of God.

At the same time, Psalm 40:6-8 goes deeper than mere a hyperbole.  The author of Hebrews saw a deep significance in these verses (c.f. Hebrews 10:1-10).  God’s plan was never for his people to endlessly redeem themselves through the sacrifices and offering of animals.  Rather, God planned the ultimate once-and-for-all sacrifice, namely Himself!  Because of the sacrifice of Jesus, we don’t need constant sacrifices to be cleansed and to be able to come to God.  We don’t earn God’s approval and love through sacrifices.  Rather, our sacrifices and offerings are a response to God’s approval and love!

If the cost of following Jesus seems too much to bear, it might indicate that we have not fully understood God’s love for us.  When we understand God’s sacrificial love, then we will desire to respond with sacrificial love and obedience.  Let us pray that we would know more of God’s love for us.

Prayer: Father, I thank You for Your sacrificial love for me.  When I think about how You paid the highest price, I am ashamed that I am sometimes so begrudgingly obedient.  Write Your will and desire upon my heart.  I want to follow You with all of my heart and mind.  In Jesus’s name, I pray.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Romans 15


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Samuel 13:5-14: The Philistines assembled to fight Israel, with three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore. They went up and camped at Micmash, east of Beth Aven. 6 When the men of Israel saw that their situation was critical and that their army was hard pressed, they hid in caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns. 7 Some Hebrews even crossed the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul remained at Gilgal, and all the troops with him were quaking with fear. 8 He waited seven days, the time set by Samuel; but Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and Saul’s men began to scatter. 9 So he said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” And Saul offered up the burnt offering. 10 Just as he finished making the offering, Samuel arrived, and Saul went out to greet him. 11 “What have you done?” asked Samuel.

Saul replied, “When I saw that the men were scattering, and that you did not come at the set time, and that the Philistines were assembling at Micmash, 12 I thought, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering.”  13 “You acted foolishly,” Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time. 14 But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and appointed him leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Summarize the events leading up to Saul’s sacrifice of a burnt offering in verse 9?
  2. Why did Samuel rebuke Saul (c.f. 1 Samuel 10:8)?
  3. Why was Saul’s worship rejected?  What would constitute right worship?

Let us consider the worship we offer to God.  Are we more interested in the form or the substance of the worship we offer?  No matter how flamboyant or seemingly passionate our worship, may be God does not receive glory if our worship is not motivated by a desire for obedience.  God is not interested in our religious activities, rather He desires a heart that desires his will above all things.  Let us seek first his Kingdom and his righteousness!

Notes

  1. After becoming the king, the first thing Saul (and his son Jonathan) did was to attack the Philistine outpost at Geba with three thousand men.  In response, the Philistines gathered a much larger army than the Israelites (“three thousand chariots, six thousand charioteers, and soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore”), which caused the Israelite soldiers to scatter in fear.  Saul remained in Gilgal waiting for Samuel, who was the most visible support for his authority as king, but when he didn’t arrive after seven days, Saul took it upon himself to offer a sacrifice to God.
  2. The problem here is not that Saul usurped Samuel’s role in offering a sacrifice but rather that Saul did not fully obey the instructions of God that he had received through Samuel.  Instead of giving God worship in obedience, Saul was more interested in a burnt offering that would seem to validate his authority as king and give his men hope.
  3. In the full context of 1 Samuel 13, we see that Saul’s motivation for offering a burnt offering was not obedience but fear.  Saul’s men began to desert him in the face of the massive Philistine opposition.  As a relatively new king, it appears that Saul allowed his insecurity to drive him in giving the burnt offering.  When our worship is inspired by the fear of men instead of God (i.e. reverential awe that desires his will above all things), then our worship does not give glory to God even when it obeys all the forms.

Evening Reflection

Are you living a life of obedient sacrifice and offering?  As we journal, let us reflect upon today’s activities.  Did we give God obedience?  Are our religious activities motivated by a desire to give God glory or by other things?

July 7, Tuesday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Phillip Chen who is associate pastor at Kairos Christian Church in San Diego.  Phil is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Serving According to His Terms”

Mark 9:33-35 (NIV)

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

ming-han-low-upRp8cFqL4w-unsplashCOVID-19 has certainly disrupted many of the rhythms in our lives to which we were accustomed; in fact, many of our daily routines are now obsolete. The church staff recently had a planning retreat, and as we thought through the Fall to see what our calendar may look like, it was difficult to put things down because of the uncertainty of our time. Everything, from our individual rhythms to our corporate gatherings, have been disrupted.

Disruption is not a bad thing. Perhaps it is an opportunity for us to re-evaluate the way we have been living. For myself, I’ve been reflecting on whether my life has been in line with the way of Jesus. As I spent time reflecting on it, I realized how difficult it really is to pursue greatness in the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells his disciples that those who want to be great in the Kingdom of God must become the least in the kingdom of this age. They must become a servant of all. They must voluntarily lay down their agenda of becoming great in the present kingdom.

That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Now, most of us would like to think of ourselves as servants since we serve in different ministries in the church; in addition, we serve our families and friends. While doing so, we may feel like we are doing all that to meet the quota (i.e., obligation), but that is different from serving with the heart of Christ powerfully displayed when he came down from heaven to serve us. Even without this identity, we can still serve—until we are treated like a real servant, which greatly offends us. This is to say, we like to serve, not according to the terms of Jesus, but those of our own.

The journey of a servant is a journey of descent. Consider Philippians 2:1-11 and the way Jesus humbled himself to come in the form of a human and submit himself to the cross. The King of Glory humbled himself to die a servant upon the cross. That’s the way of Jesus. That’s the model for greatness in the Kingdom of God. Is it possible that we’ve miscalculated what it means to be successful in this lifetime?

The allure of the rewards of this kingdom has deceived us. The comfort, the privilege, and the rewards of this life pale in comparison to the eternal rewards and glorious riches of God’s Kingdom. We know this. But perhaps we have not fully believed that greatness in the Kingdom of God is worth laying down greatness in the kingdom of this Age. Most of us are so accustomed to the journey of ascent that we struggle with the downward trajectory of the journey of a servant.

Obviously, I don’t have it all figured out; in fact, I’m far from it!  Therefore, I desperately need the Holy Spirit to help me – particularly in giving me a greater imagination of the rewards of the Kingdom of God. We all need the Holy Spirit to help us see the worthiness of being great in the Kingdom of God. There are many needs all around us. We can certainly see that. As we have had personal encounters with the greatest Servant this world has seen, may we also model our lives to be servants wherever we are called.

Prayer: Father, how difficult it is to be great in your Kingdom. I confess that I still struggle with wanting the rewards of the kingdom of this age. In this time of disruption, I need the wisdom and the power of the Holy Spirit to help me re-orient my life to the way of Jesus. May the ways that I have strayed be highlighted and corrected. May we as a church learn how to follow the way of Jesus in a more significant manner in this season. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Romans 14


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 2:1-11 (NIV): Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Question to Consider

  1. What are some qualities of servanthood we see in this passage?
  2. Does verse 4 “not looking to your own interests but to the interests of other” mean that we should not love ourselves?
  3. How much do you desire to be great in the kingdom of God if this is the model of greatness?

Notes

  1. Jesus’ model of servanthood is one in which he willingly lays down whatever advantage or privilege he has for the sake of others. He intentionally lowered himself so that he could lift others up.
  2. There is a difference between self-love and selfish love. Self-love (as I see it) is an identity issue – where we are to have a healthy view of ourselves by seeing ourselves through the lens of God. He sees us and loves us and calls us worthy. On the other hand, selfish love is one which we show self-preference and live our lives in a self-oriented way. God calls us to show preference to others to serve them out of a healthy place of self-love, a confidence in our identity as children of God. Therefore, when we love ourselves the way God loves us, we are able to show preference and selflessly love others (in a better way).
  3. Personal Response.

Evening Reflection

Read Philippians 2:1-11 again and spend some time asking the Holy Spirit to reveal ways in which you can take on the orientation of a servant. Write down a few practical steps and tangible ways you can be a servant to those around you and start living it out.

July 6, Monday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Cami King who serves as associate pastor at Remnant Church in Manhattan. Cami is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“We Need to Hear from God”

Exodus 3:1-10

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” 4 When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” 5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father,[a] the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. 7 The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

“In the progress of God’s redemptive work, communication advances into communion, and communion into union. When the progression is complete we can truly say, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20) . . .”

– Dallas Willard, Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God)

nathan-dumlao-Peqm4Brrqwc-unsplashWhether we want to acknowledge it or not – our society is still in the middle of a crisis (the pandemic isn’t over just because we’ve decided we are tired of being inside and want to go to the beach). We find ourselves in the midst of a critical, chaotic, and catalytic moment. Long-standing race-based violence and discrimination is front and center in public discourse. For many, the precarious and contingent nature of our life feels palpable as the ever evolving and painfully persistent COVID19 pandemic drudges on. Folks are angry, grieved, fearful, frustrated, indignant, and even apathetic as many of us remain home bound and largely isolated.

Our lives have been profoundly interrupted and things, to put it mildly, are not as they should be. Many are scrambling to re-assemble furloughed careers while others are aching for the healing of wounded hearts. Still others, eager to make right the world’s sin-sick structures, are allied with those choosing to resist and wondering how in the world are we to imagine and make manifest a new way of life together. These are hard realities. And, yes, things are a mess. But as people who worship a God who sits high and looks low and holds the whole world in Divine hands, we can take comfort in knowing that God is on the scene and God is at work – right here and right now. And we need to hear from God.

When Moses saw that things were not as they should be – a bush ablaze yet unconsumed – he made a critical choice: He turned aside. Instead of resenting the interruption and insisting on “getting back to normal life” (whatever that means), Moses stopped in his tracks and turned all his attention to what was before him. As he did, he walked into one of the greatest God-encounters recorded in the Biblical text and was invited to partner with God in one of the greatest redemptive moves on this side of heaven (the Exodus).

If we want to hear from God, we have to be interruptible. If we want to partner with God, we have to be willing to turn aside, discerning God’s voice and following God’s lead. Only then did God call Moses by name and invite him into relational intimacy and ultimately into world-transforming partnership. And only then will we hear from God and have the privilege of partnering with God in the holy work of redemption in our day.

God is always busy at the work of restoration and redemption all around us. Will we join? Will we choose God today in the midst of interruption – fixing our eyes on all that should-not-be around us (learning and engaging) and listening for God’s voice (discerning and partnering) in the midst of it all?

Prayer: God, give me the courage to turn aside and look to You today. Interrupt my plans this day and draw me into Your presence. As you do, may the flows of my life that are not aligned with Your redemptive work in the world also be interrupted. May Your heart become my heart and Your work become my Work. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Romans 13


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 63:1-5: You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. 2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. 3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. 4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

Question to Consider

  1. In v. 1, how does the psalmist describe his hunger for God? How does this align with how you imagine your own need for God each day?
  2. Why is it important that the psalmist talks about ways he’s experienced God in vv.2-3? What are some ways you’ve experienced God presence, power, and glory?
  3. What commitments does the psalmist make in these verses? Why are these important? In what ways might God be calling you to make your own commitments and walk therein?

Notes

  1. The psalmist describes his hunger as deep desperation and dependence.
  2. In the midst of difficult times, it’s easy to forget the things God has already done. But it’s those very things that give us the courage to trust in God and hope for God’s deliverance. Because we have seen what God can do, we are more confident in what God will do.
  3. The psalmist commits to praise and worship of God. He also commits to being satisfied by God. Instead of committing only to doing things for God, the psalmist commits also and first to relational intimacy with God. Our doing for God must flow out of our being with God.

Evening Reflection

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water (Psalm 63:1).

Spend a few moments meditating again on the verse above.  Do these words reflect the desires of your heart? If not, why do you think not? If yes, how are you responding (i.e. how are you seeking and communing with God?) Discuss these things with God.

July 5, Sunday

Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Christine Li, was first posted on August 3, 2014.  Christine, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, serves as a deaconess at Remnant Church in Manhattan, New York.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Waiting . . .”

Psalm 60: 6-10

God has spoken from his sanctuary: ‘In triumph I will parcel out Shechem and measure off the Valley of Sukkoth. 7 Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet, Judah is my scepter. 8 Moab is my washbasin, on Edom I toss my sandal; over Philistia I shout in triumph.’ 9 Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom? 10 Is it not you, God, you who have now rejected us and no longer go out with our armies?”

max-fuchs-O9Nfmpp1crU-unsplashIsn’t it hard to wait on God’s promises sometimes? At least, I personally have a hard time waiting.

In this passage, Israel had been defeated by her enemy, yet David reminds himself (and others) of God’s promise to deliver the land into Israel’s hands. Taking heart in this prophecy, David is able to boldly ask God for the victory and trust that God will bring it to fruition, even though Israel had suffered a loss.

Often times, God gives us assurance of something and then proceeds to have us wait before He brings it to pass. He even allows one, two, or many defeats to occur along the way as well! I wish I could say that with every time God has me wait for something, it becomes easier, but that is not always the case. My impatience was and is always at war with my faith in how loving and good God is.

No matter the circumstance, waiting can be difficult, and it is tempting to react in certain ways. One temptation for me is to seemingly behave, to say I’m fully surrendered, as a way to bargain for Him to hurry up because I have learned my lesson already. A second temptation is to doubt Him and question His love and kindness in my impatience. What ends up happening is that my desire to draw near to God grows colder. When the circumstances in my heart overcome what I know in my mind about the LORD, my fears increase, and my ability to honestly come before Him decreases.

When those temptations come, let’s remind ourselves of David’s example here in trusting that God will surely fulfill what He has promised. Let’s surrender our fears to our loving and faithful God who has given us extensive evidence of His faithfulness up to this moment. Let’s remember that the Word we read gives us a solid, extensive account of His faithfulness to His people, and let’s trust Him to use our lives as a backdrop for His faithfulness as well.

What is it that you have asked for and He has promised? Has it become increasingly hard to wait on Him? On this Sunday, even when you cannot stand firm in your trust in Him, let us still worship Him together. Let’s come before our faithful Father with open hearts, and let’s ask Him to change our impatient waiting into a contented trusting. He will surely use our lives to display His faithfulness.

Prayer: LORD, thank You for Your provision in my life thus far. Today, I need Your help to walk by faith and not by sight! Please supply me with greater faith to testify of Your faithfulness and provision, even when I have not received, and help me to believe that You are indeed true to Your word and Your promises.

Bible Reading for Today: Romans 12

July 4, Saturday

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provide by a former staff at an AMI church, is an updated version of his blog originally posted on July 5, 2014.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Hosting the Presence of the Lord”

Hebrews 12:18-24

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

fernando-puente-Pje_ZMU1M9A-unsplashAre you familiar with the saying, “Hosting the presence of the Lord”?  If not, it simply means that you become the receptacle of God’s presence through the Spirit.  And that is the deepest desire of my heart—to host this presence of the Lord. It’s also a theological reality that my church has been intentionally cultivating for the past several years, a reality that today’s text points to.

Hebrews12:18-24 reveals the heart of hosting that flows into everything we do. Verse 18 begins with an allusion to Exodus 19. The Israelites are camped around Mount Sinai and the presence of the Lord descends like a thick cloud. God sternly warns the people that if any man or animal touches the mountain, they must stone it to death. The people saw the presence of God through an astounding manifestation at the mountain, but they were at a distance.

Yet, because of Jesus, this is not the mountain we’re invited to. Through His blood, which covers us, the mountain we’re called to is Mount Zion. It is the mountain of God’s presence that is life giving instead of life taking. It is one where we can enter in confidently, as it says in Hebrews 4. This is the core of what it means for us to host the presence of the Lord. God’s presence is one that we draw near to instead of running away. It is delight, life, and righteousness as God makes His presence known.

As an Asian who grew up in the Asian American church, this was a foreign concept to me. The Mount Sinai God was what I knew. God was to be feared and revered from afar because I was so sinful, but this morning’s text says that we come to the festal gathering of angels.

Praise the Lord that this is God’s desire for us!

So, we pray and seek God’s presence as He desires for us to do through Jesus. We long to dwell in the city of the living God even as we wait for His fullness to arrive with Christ’s second coming. We pray according to what Jesus taught us: “Your kingdom come, your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.” We host His presence.

If God’s desire for us is to come to the mountain of the living God, then we should not only earnestly seek this but also prepare the receptacle (i.e., our hearts) by way of “purifying ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).

Let’s make it our constant prayer and desire for more of His presence.

Prayer: Lord, prompt me, through the Spirit, to desire to host the presence of the Lord in my heart.  May I not only fear You but also enjoy Your magnificent presence.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Romans 10-11