December 28, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional is a reprint of Kate Moon’s blog originally posted on December 28, 2013.  Kate continues to serve the Lord in E. Asia. 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“How Can We Express Our Respect for and Trust in God?”

Psalm 147:1-3, 10-20

Praise the Lord. How good it is to sing praises to our God, how pleasant and fitting to praise him! 2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem; he gathers the exiles of Israel. 3 He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds . . . 10 His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; 11 the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love . . . 15 He sends his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. 16 He spreads the snow like wool and scatters the frost like ashes. 17 He hurls down his hail like pebbles. Who can withstand his icy blast? 18 He sends his word and melts them; he stirs up his breezes, and the waters flow. 19 He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. 20 He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws. Praise the Lord.

To put it simply, we could say this psalm contains two main themes: God’s people delighting in him, and God delighting in his people.

It should be easy for God’s people to delight in Him.  He is almighty and powerful yet loving, compassionate and kind.  For His people to praise Him, they just need to be reminded of who He is and what He has done – hence this psalm.

The second matter, however, poses more of a challenge, for although God is always worthy of being delighted in, it is not always the case with human beings.  What would it take for me to be delightful to God today?  Verse 11 says that He “delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.”  In other words, God delights in those who respect and trust Him, but how do we, as human beings, express this?  

It is not an accident that a good portion of the next part of the psalm is dedicated to describing His word (vv. 15-20).  Interestingly, when God commands nature, it has no choice but to respond (vv. 15-18); when God reveals His word to His people (v. 19), there is no similar description of what happens immediately afterwards.  It highlights how out of all of his creations, human beings are the only ones with free will to obey or disobey.

So how do we express our respect and trust?  By obeying His word.  When we choose to obey, it shows that we recognize who God is, that we respect Him as the creator of the universe, but also that we are responding to His love.  Because He has demonstrated His love towards us, we trust Him, believing that His commands are for our good.  We, therefore, obey Him.

What am I going to do today with this amazing privilege that God has given me, this freedom to choose whether to obey and honor Him or disobey and reject His love?  Use this psalm to remind you of His goodness and love, and let His love motivate your obedience this day.

Prayer: Lord, truly you are worthy of my praise.  How good you have been to me, how loving.  You have been my healer, restorer, provider and protector.  How can I not place my hope and trust in you?  May I be a delight to you this day.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Micah 4


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 John 2:5-6: But if anyone obeys his word, love for God is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: 6 Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

Read John 14:23-24, 30-3: Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. 24 Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” 30 “I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me, 31 but he comes so that the world may learn that I love the Father and do exactly what my Father has commanded me.”

Questions to Consider

  1. From the verses above, what is the relationship between loving God and obeying his word?
  2. In 1 John 2:6, what do you think John meant by living “as Jesus did?”  How do the verses from John 14 shed further light on this question?
  3.  What is my attitude towards obeying God?  Is it like Christ’s?  Is there something God is commanding me to do that I need to obey, exactly?  What could it cost me? 

Notes

  1. The one who truly loves God will obey God’s word.
  2. Living “as Jesus did” means loving God the Father and obeying his commands, exactly, at times even to the point of great personal cost (in John 14:30-31, Jesus is referring to what he was about to face on the cross).
  3.  Often our attitudes towards obeying God are casual, i.e., “If I just obey him in general, it should be good enough.”  How different this is from Jesus who sought to obey God “exactly.”  We are also willing to obey as long as it does not cause us too much inconvenience.  How different this is from Jesus who sought to obey God even at a great cost.

Though sometimes obeying exactly is costly, remember also what was accomplished through the price Jesus paid – the salvation of the world – and let that be an encouragement.  When God asks us to do something, it is not an empty request, especially if he asks us to do it at a cost.


Evening Reflection

Did I make an effort to obey God exactly today?  Did I pay a price?  Take comfort in imagining what God could be doing through your sacrifice and thinking of his delight in you.

December 27, Sunday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Charles Choe who leads Tapestry Church in Los Angeles, was first posted on June 29, 2014.  Charles is a graduate of University of California, Riverside (BA) and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for This Morning 

“Decluttering Our Lives”

1 Timothy 6:17-19

As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. [18] They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, [19] thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

Growing up, I was told not to leave any leftovers at the dinner table because African kids were dying of hunger every day. If my parents really wanted to drive the point home, they would go on about how eating steak, owning a car, or even having shelter was such a privilege for us. It might have gotten me to finish my vegetables, but it certainly didn’t make me a genuinely grateful child. Why not? Because soon, I was thinking, “Can I help it that I’m living in this country? And that this is just normal in America?” Guilt may have worked for the moment, but it had no substantive power to change me. 

The Bible is not into guilt. It says, “You know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, who though he was rich became poor so that through his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9), suggesting that anyone who has truly understood what Jesus has done for them, will learn to be generous. The Scripture is only interested in loosening the grip money has over us—this need to have more, this fear of not having enough—because these sentiments express a lack of faith in a generous God.  

This is not saying that we can’t enjoy pleasure; God has given us everything richly to enjoy. Rather, Paul is telling the rich Ephesians that when it comes to wealth, use it strategically. It’s a tremendous gift, latent with much potential for good. The Bible says, first, you can choose to spend it on yourself; second, you can give it all away in one swoop (monastery, anyone?); or the third and the most biblical option is, you can invest it in such a way that it continues to bear tremendous fruit. In other words, Paul is not calling the rich to no longer be rich, but he’s calling the rich to no longer live rich, but to be rich in good deeds. 

So how about if we take this Sunday and de-clutter a bit? Why not put a couple of bags together for the local Goodwill store? We can start there by strategizing as to how we can live more generously with our money and time for those who are hurting. Let’s arrive at a simpler lifestyle, with a new attitude toward money and material things. We know we can because of what Christ has done for us. It flows out of our changed heart, a heart that has been touched by the Gospel story. 

Prayer: Father, help me to declutter my life so that I keep only those things I cannot lose and let go things I cannot keep after I die.  Thank You for Your Son whom I cannot lose. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Micah 3

December 26, Saturday

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 March 15, 2014.  He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.). 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

Matthew 6:33

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 7:13-14

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

I was struck by this thought the other day: I realized how much of my life (particularly my schedule) was bound and defined by circumstances and people, rather than by God.  My prayer life and time in the Word, in particular, was constrained by church activities, my children’s school and extracurricular schedule, etc.  I wondered, is my walk with God reactive based on circumstances, or can I be more proactive in my walk with God?  Should I allow my schedule to dictate my prayer and Word life or should my time with God dictate my schedule?  What does it mean to seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness if my walk with God seems so constrained by circumstances?  

I wonder if you’ve ever had these thoughts.   

As I prayed and meditated over the matter, I realized that I had been thinking about this all wrong.  Putting God first doesn’t mean that you necessarily schedule Godly activities first and then everything else afterwards.  This actually gives God too little!   

Rather, I think it means that we desire God to reign over every single area of our lives.  Every moment can be bathed in God’s presence through prayer.  

When I wake up in the morning, I can wake up with God.  

When I drive to work, I can drive with God.

When I work, I can work for God’s glory.

When I have a conversation with my children, I can invite God into the conversation.

When I eat, I can eat with God.

When I rest, I can invite God’s Sabbath rest into my life.

You get the idea.  What if we looked for ways that God could become more and more Lord over every sphere we were connected with?  I think that’s seeking God’s kingdom first and His righteousness.

Prayer: Father, help me to enthrone You as my Lord in all spheres of my life.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Micah 1-2

December 25, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional is a reprint of Kate Moon’s blog originally posted on December 25, 2014.  Kate continues to serve the Lord in E. Asia. 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Merry Christmas”

Psalm 144:1-5, 9

Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle. 2 He is my loving God and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer, my shield, in whom I take refuge, who subdues peoples under me.  3 Lord, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? 4 They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow. 5 Part your heavens, Lord, and come down . . . 9 I will sing a new song to you, my God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you . . .

Come to think of it, it kind of sounds a lot like what people long for when they have a crush on someone:  That the object of their affection would know they exist.  That they would even think of them.  That they would care for them.  Yet this is how the Bible says it is, as impossible as it may seem, with the God of the universe and us.  We are on His mind. (v. 3) 

God is a personal God, and the way David addresses Him in the opening lines of Psalm 144 reflects how personally he experienced God throughout his life.  For us this morning, is God just “a” loving God or really “my” loving God?

If it has been a while since we have felt his personal touch in our lives, let’s ask God to help us to be sensitive to His loving presence once again, for it is not that He has stopped loving us but perhaps that we have stopped looking in His direction.

Let’s also ask God to bring to mind all the good things He has done, to remind us of how personal His goodness has been, to even give us fresh revelations of situations in which He was present in His love but we didn’t realize it.  And as the remembrances and realizations wash over us, let’s release our hearts in praise to Him.  For hasn’t He been good to us?

Prayer: This Christmas morning, as I meditate on my loving God, my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer (v. 2), the one who parted the heavens and came down for me (v. 5), I command my soul to sing and wait for the song in my heart to arise (v. 9).  Consider singing a new song from your heart to the Lord today.  Wait upon Him, and let it rise. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Luke 1-2


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 144:9-15: “I will sing a new song to you, my God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,10 to the One who gives victory to kings, who delivers his servant David. From the deadly sword 11 deliver me; rescue me from the hands of foreigners whose mouths are full of lies, whose right hands are deceitful. 12 Then our sons in their youth will be like well-nurtured plants, and our daughters will be like pillars carved to adorn a palace. 13 Our barns will be filled with every kind of provision. Our sheep will increase by thousands, by tens of thousands in our fields; 14 our oxen will draw heavy loads. There will be no breaching of walls, no going into captivity, no cry of distress in our streets. 15 Blessed is the people of whom this is true; blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What is David’s situation in Psalm 143?  What about in Psalm 144?
  2. What story do these two psalms tell when they are read side by side?
  3. What are his main concerns in Psalm 143 versus in Psalm 144?  
  4. As we see God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promise and call on David’s life, what hope can we have for our own?

Notes

  1. Where Psalm 143 is the desperate cry of a man on the run, Psalm 144 is the battle cry of the leader of a nation.  
  2. Taken from two very different periods of David’s life and here juxtaposed, these two psalms tell the story of how after all the hard times, King David finally comes into his own.  He has gone from being a fugitive to being a king, and this is evidence of God’s personal goodness and faithfulness to David in his life.
  3. In Psalm 144, David is no longer asking for God’s deliverance as one being hunted down; instead, he is now calling on the Lord for victory over foreign nations (v. 11) and blessings for an entire people (vv. 12-15) from the position of being their king (v. 10).  Though there are different seasons we go through in life, once we get through difficult stages, our prayers can be less focused on personal struggles and turn more towards establishing God’s kingdom and bringing its benefits to others. 
  4. God is mindful of us.  Though our lives are like a mere breath or shadow compared to His eternal existence, His desire is for us to live it in a significant way.  In addition to being thankful for what He has done in the past, let’s continue to hope in God for his future goodness towards us, His faithfulness to fulfill his promise in us.

Evening Reflection

 As I celebrated Christmas today, was it a busy day?  Was there a moment that I had with the Lord where I felt true joy and celebration in my heart over who he is, what he has done and what he will do?  If not, it’s not too late – take a moment in quiet celebration with him even now. 

December 24, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional is a reprint of Kate Moon’s blog originally posted on December 24, 2014.  Kate continues to serve the Lord in E. Asia. 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Living as if There is No Christmas”

Luke 2:10-11

“But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.’”

Christmas mornings were always a joyful time in our household when I was growing up.  With five children and three adults (including our grandmother), the space under the tree would be overflowing with gifts that had magically appeared overnight.  The youngest would always be the first up at 5 or 6 am, trying to get the others out of bed while the older ones would tease and pretend to be sooo sleepy that they couldn’t possibly get up just then and manage to drag it out until 6:30 or 7.

Strictly speaking, our joy wasn’t coming from the “true meaning of Christmas,” but the surprise and wonder of being children opening packages, receiving the love of our parents expressed in this particular way, the family traditions and the good times spent together were all good gifts from our God above that we enjoyed especially at this time.

Living now in a country where Christmas isn’t a national holiday, where there is still rush hour in the morning and evening because people are going to work, where students still have classes and even final exams on December 25th, it is harder to have a sense of the day as being something special.  At the same time, though, it brings about a different kind of awareness.  Seeing the masses of people going about their lives, business as usual, one is struck by the realization that this was indeed their reality as people who did not know Jesus.  Though on the night of Jesus’ birth, the angels declared this good news of great joy that was to be for all the people, there were still so many who had not yet heard, who simply had no idea that there was more to life than the everyday.

Joy to the world.  As we celebrate Christmas day with thanksgiving in our hearts for the joy and peace he has brought into our lives, let’s also remember that his coming was for all people and lift up a prayer for those who have yet to know him.

Prayer: Thank you, Jesus, for your great love.  Thank you for coming for us, to save us and set us free.  Thank you for the abundant life that you give us.  May those who have yet to know you hear this good news.  Let people all over the world know the joy you bring.  In your name we pray.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Matthew 2 (Christmas reading)


Lunch Break Study

Read Luke 2:15-18: When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’ 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.”

Questions to Consider

  1. After hearing the angel’s message, what did the shepherds want to do (v. 15)? 
  2. What happened when they got to Bethlehem (v. 16)? 
  3. What did they do afterwards (v. 17)? Why do you think they did this?  From where do get our motivation to share the good news?

Notes

  1. They wanted to see for themselves what had happened.
  2. When they saw Mary, Joseph and the baby, they experienced for themselves the truth of the message from God, and they could believe their Messiah had truly come into the world.
  3. They spread the word.  They did this because of what they had heard but also experienced; they believed that this was truly good news.  We are most motivated to share when we have experienced the truth of God’s message for ourselves and really come to believe it is good news. 

Evening Reflection

Did I have a tangible, personal experience of God and the truth of his word today?  Who will I tell?

December 23, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor David Kwon who heads Journey Community Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, was first posted on December 23, 2014.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (BS) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Who Do You Trust”?

Proverbs 28:26

Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.

“Trust is not a passive state of mind. It is a vigorous act of the soul by which we choose to lay hold on the promises of God and cling to them despite the adversity that at times seeks to overwhelms us.”  ― Jerry Bridges 

The writer of Proverbs is continually showing his readers the ways of the wise and the foolish.  This particular proverb talks about the issue of trust – more specifically asking, who do you trust?  Yourself or the Lord?  The fool trusts his own limited wisdom and counsel, as well as his own strength and sufficiency, which leads to pride and deception.  He is self-confident and no one can tell him otherwise.  On the other hand, the wise puts his trust in the Lord’s promises and power.  One commentator writes: “The comfort of a wise man: He that walks wisely, that trusts not to his own heart, but is humble and self-diffident, and goes on in the strength of the Lord God, he shall be delivered; when the fool, that trusts in his own heart, shall be destroyed.”

This morning, spend time in prayer asking Jesus to give you the humility and strength to trust him in all the areas of your life – the uncertainties of the future, relationships, marriage, children, hardships, a decision you need to make, etc.  Make a commitment to walk in wisdom.  

Prayer: Lord, give me the strength and humility today to trust in you.  We may have prayed like this many times in our Christian faith, but may it be true in the way I live.  Help me to trust you!  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Matthew 1 (Christmas reading)


Lunch Study Break

Read Luke 18: 1-8: And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. [2] He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. [3] And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ [4] For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, [5] yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” [6] And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. [7] And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? [8] I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Questions to Consider

  1. What does Jesus tell his disciples concerning prayer?
  2. Why should we be persistent in our prayers?
  3. How does this parable challenge you in the area of prayer?

Notes

  1. Jesus is telling his disciples to be persistent in prayer, just as this widow was in seeking justice from the judge.  We should continually pray and not get discouraged.   
  2. Our persistence reveals our faith in God who is willing to answer our prayers.  Even though he does not answer in our time, it builds our faith and trust in the Lord.  
  3. This is a challenge to always pray and not give up.  So press on in prayer!

Evening Reflection

As we are approaching Christmas, spend time reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth (Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2).  Take time to pray and thank Him for His amazing love that was shown through the birth of Jesus.    

December 22, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Matt Ro who formerly pastored Journey Church in Atlanta, was originally posted on May 7, 2013.  Matt is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BS) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Create in Me a Clean Heart”

Psalm 51:10-12 (ESV)

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.  12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Create in me a clean heart.  The word “create” here is the Hebrew verb bara, which is used in Genesis 1 for the creation of the heavens and earth by God.  It describes what only God can do: to create ex nihilo, out of nothing.  When David asks God to “create” a pure heart in him in v. 10, basically, he is asking for nothing less than a miracle; something that only God can provide.  David is acknowledging that this re-creation must be creation out of nothing.  

Cast me not away.  Davis is worried that he might again fall into sin even if God re-creates a new heart in him.  He prays for a steadfast spirit.  David’s prayer also shows that the Holy Spirit still indwells in him.  There is eternal security for those who are in Christ.  We cannot lose our salvation.  David may not so much be talking about a possibility of losing his salvation, but more so, he is acknowledging that he is unable to live a holy life without God.  He is asking for divine help.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation.  It is not salvation that David has lost, but the joy of it.  As long as we live in sin, there is no joy.  Our fellowship with God is broken experientially.  Now that he has repented, David has found cleansing, is seeking a renewed spirit, and he wants to have that joy again.  

Prayer:  Father, I need You alone to create in me a clean heart.  I can’t do it on my own.  Forgive me of my sins so that I may regain the joy of Your salvation.  I cannot do anything apart from You.  Help me to live the holy life to which You are calling me.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Esther 10


Lunch Break Study

Read Ephesians 2:11-13 (ESV): Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Questions to Consider

  1. How does this passage describe our spiritual condition apart from Jesus (v. 12)?
  2. What is the significance of Paul saying that we have been brought near by the blood of Christ, not the death of Christ?
  3. A South American Indian told the missionary who led him to Christ the following: “When I was living in the jungle, we never knew a day without fear. When we woke up in the morning, we were afraid. When we went out of our houses, we were afraid. When we walked along the river, we were afraid. We saw an evil spirit in every stone and tree and waterfall. And when night fell, fear came into our huts and slept with us all night long.” Without Christian truth, darkness and fear settles upon the land and people’s hearts. How thankful we ought to be that God has called us out of such darkness!  Take a moment to remember that were it not for God’s grace in Christ, we would be unable to experience His peace & love.

Notes

  1. Apart from the gospel being brought to us, we would be “separated from Christ, alienated from believers, without any hope and without God in the world.” Without any light in our darkness, we would still be living in that condition. But now, having once been far off, we have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
  2. It isn’t merely through the death of Christ, but Paul says that it is the blood of Christ.  It is significant that he uses that term since death is not always bloody, that is, one can die without shedding blood.  But the Bible speaks of the death of Christ, and more often of the cross of Christ, yet even more so, it speaks of the blood of Christ.  We don’t like to think of the cross of Christ as being bloody, but God emphasizes it because blood is always a sign of violence.  The death of Jesus is not just a simple passing away—dying of old age on a comfortable bed.  No, it is a violent death, a bloody scene—a man hanging by his flesh, torn and tattered, with blood gushing down from pierced legs and hands. God wants us to remember that violent death, because violence is the final expression of a godless society. He is reminding us that when humanity had done its worst, God’s love reached down to that very place, calling back those who were far off and bringing them near to him—through the blood of Christ.
  3. Personal response

Evening Reflection

Since God has already taken us from complete spiritual darkness to bring us near to him by the blood of Christ, how much more is he willing and able to help us in the present? Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”  After thinking about your current prayer requests and considering every possible scenario in which God could answer, write a prayer of thanksgiving, acknowledging that God’s will and plan for our lives are perfect.  We can learn to be thankful in all circumstances, all the more when we remember that His plan for our lives is good and unfailing.   

Prayer:  Father, I thank You that I have been delivered from the darkness and brought near to You by the precious blood of Your Son.  Amen.

December 21, Monday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI, was first posted on December 21, 2014.  A graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Cairn University (MA), Yohan served as a staff at several AMI churches in the past. 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Setting a New Goal for 2021”

Psalm 136:23-26

We remembered us in our low estate His love endures forever 24 and freed us from our enemies. His love endures forever. 25 He gives food to every creature. His love endures forever. 26 Give thanks to the God of heaven His love endures forever. 

When the New Year rolls around as the old year ends, we typically do two things: make new resolutions for the coming year while reflecting or evaluating the closing year.  To be truthful, I am better at making resolutions than reflecting, which is probably common for most of us.  However, reflection and evaluation of past performance is the oft-forgotten critical step in setting and accomplishing realistic future goals.  For instance, many people will make resolutions to get into the gym in 2021 (if things get back to normal), perhaps as many as four times a week.  However, if they took steps to count how many times they actually went to the gym in 2020, they would discover they went less than a dozen times.  (I understand that this may not be the most suitable example since COVID shut down gyms for months.)  So the goal of going to the gym 208 times in 2021 (4 x 52) is probably not realistic and doomed to fail, especially if your past suggests that you struggled to get there 12 times in 2020.

My point is not that we shouldn’t set goals or even lofty goals in 2021, but rather it is important to look at the past when planning the future (which we can’t really control anyway).  In Psalm 136, we see interplay between the past and the future.  First, the Psalmist points out that the Lord has historically been good to the people of Israel.  This, then, is demonstrated through recounting the major events of early Israelite history and the Old Testament; so the writers praises the Lord for creating the heavens and the earth, delivering Israel from slavery in Egypt, and eventually delivering them to the Promised Land.  The second idea implies the future, namely that “His love endures forever.” (Don’t know if you caught that.)  Forever, of course, having a timeless future connotation.

This morning, before you set your goals for 2021, why don’t you take a few moments to do what the Psalmist did: Write a list of ways the Lord has been good to you in 2020.   Thank him for his goodness, and remind yourself that, “His love endures forever.”  

Prayer: Father, please help me to be thankful for and treasure every relationship that you have given me.  Help me to see that you are transforming me into the image of your Son through these relationships.  Please help me to set a goal for the New Year that would honor You the most. Amen.   

Bible Reading for Today: Esther 9


Lunch Study Break

Read Revelation 2:1-7: “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Questions to Consider

  1. What were the things the Ephesians did well?
  2. What indictment did the Lord have against them?
  3. How does the Lord instruct them to remedy the situation?

Notes

  1. The Ephesians worked hard, had good deeds; they had sound teaching, and even remained faithful in persevering through hardships (2:2-3).
  2. The problem is that the Ephesians lost a sense of passion or first love for Christ (2:4).
  3. The Lord’s advice is threefold: Remember, repent, and redo.  Remember where they were with Christ and that first love.  Repent for having lost that first love.  Redo all the things they did when they were in love (not bad marriage advice, by the way).  

Evening Reflection

How is your passion for the Lord right now?  How was your spiritual walk in 2020?  Is there a spiritual goal you might want to accomplish in 2021?  Do you just want to get back to loving Christ and his people?  

December 20, Sunday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey, was first posted on October 30, 2013.  He is a graduate of University of Wisconsin (BA) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Overflow”

Psalm 23:5-6 (NIV)
 

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

One of my regular prayers has been for my life to “overflow”; overflow of His presence, overflow of His love, overflow of His peace so that all His goodness would spill over from my life to bless others.  In the same way that the sight of a banqueting table overflowing with delicious food would satisfy a hungry person, the wedding guests at Cana were overflowing with satisfaction as a result of the miracle performed there.  When wine ran out, Jesus told the servant to pour water into empty water jars to the very brim, where one more drop of water would make it overflow. When he obeyed, water turned into the greatest tasting wine.  

As John records this account, he lets the readers know that this was the first miraculous sign Jesus performed.  Among several applications that can be drawn from this story, one is this: Jesus supplied abundant and choice wine to this ordinary wedding so that the host would not be embarrassed and the guests could enjoy themselves; this is to say, Christ truly cares about our lives.

It’s interesting to see the parallel between Psalm 23 and the Gospel of John where Jesus proclaims, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn. 10:11). David, who was a shepherd himself, describes the Lord as a caring Shepherd, who leads the sheep to gentle streams and green pastures.  And that is exactly why Jesus came, that we might experience that exciting, abundant life in Him: “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (Jn. 10:10). 

God wants our lives to be overflowing with his love and goodness even in the midst of hardships and troubles. He knows every one of us so well and deeply cares for us, and even when one of us is lost, He is in desperate pursuit to find us; and when He does, He celebrates.  That’s because He is the good Shepherd.  

Prayer:  Father, we express our desires for more of You, to overflow in the Spirit.  Help us to walk each day in the abundance of Your presence.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Esther 8

December 19, Saturday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, provided by Pastor Peter Yoon of Kairos Christian Church in San Diego, was first posted on May 18, 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

“We are All House Builders”

Matt 7:24-27

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

We are all house builders. The only question is, on what foundation are we building our houses? Invited guests will usually comment and compliment on the décor, the architectural design, the furnishing, the landscaping, etc. of a home, but hardly anybody asks about the foundation of the house. Yet, ultimately, all houses will have to face storms. 

God gave us his word so that in obeying His commands, our lives would flourish. Jesus taught people so that in putting His teachings into practice, we would weather through the storms, or, in some cases, simply avoid them. Yet, the foolish builder continues to make sand the choice foundation by disregarding Jesus’ teachings.  

The inevitable question is, why? Why would you choose a foundation that is not secure and firm? Why would you gamble your house on something that can’t stand up to storms? Parents often find themselves stunned at their children, not because of brilliance, but because of foolishness. In futility, parents ask these questions: “Why did you throw the cell phone into the bathtub full of water?” “Why did you shove your little sister?” “Why would you play football inside the living room?” And almost always, the children respond with the famous lines, “I don’t know.” 

If we were to ask the fool in Jesus’ parable, “Why did you build your house on sand?” what would he say? He might respond, “I don’t know. It just seemed okay with me at that time.” None of us would be so foolish to build our homes on sand as its foundation. Who would make architectural plans to build a house on a sandy foundation? No one, of course!  

But think about this: No one would sit down and make deliberate plans on having an unfulfilling and meaningless existence, would they? No couple, when making a vow, aims at going through an ugly divorce someday, right? Nobody harbors a little grudge hoping to become a bitter and resentful person, do they? They all just seem to happen. 

The fool who built his house on sand had no clue that he was building on false foundation. Theologian C. Neal Plantinga said, “Sin is both wrong and dumb. Indeed, wherever the follies are playing, sin is the main event.”

The apostle Paul wrote in Eph 5:15-17, Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

God may be asking for obedience in particular areas of our lives. He does so, knowing that a house is being built. And He only wants to ensure that our house is built on a firm foundation. 

Prayer: Father, help me to build my life on the firm foundation of Your eternal word.  Help me to be a wiser builder by obeying Your word. Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Esther 6-7