June 2, Tuesday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., is an updated version of his blog originally posted on March 28, 2015.  Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Approaching God Daily with Confidence”

1 John 5:13-15 (ESV)

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

food-photographer-jennifer-pallian-9poJvpEW_gw-unsplashMany people see eternal life as just a fairy tale ending to the gospels and something that doesn’t impact our day-to-day lives.  We can mistake the resurrection as simply a happy ending to a life filled with sin, discouragement, stress, and heartache.  Since all of us go through difficulties in this life—literally all at the same time amid the present pandemic—it’s tempting to see eternity as nothing more than a way of escape.  However, the resurrection of Christ is far more than just a guarantee of life after death:  It also guarantees that we will have sufficient power to overcome this world and to find joy in the present age.  I love the pastoral cliché, “Christ came not to add years to our life, but life to our years!” 

A great part of our joy in this life comes from having confidence that God hears and answers our prayers.  Some of the most amazing experiences that I have had spiritually have come as a result of answered prayers.  I’ve always wondered how we will pray in heaven without the presence of pain and sorrow because so many of our prayers are driven by difficulties.  From that perspective, praying presently with an eternal mindset is one of life’s greatest gifts.  Our personal assurance of eternal life allows us to approach God daily with confidence.

However, there is nothing that hinders this relationship with God faster than a lack of conviction, because, ultimately, mistrust ruins relationships.  If we are not convinced that a person is trustworthy, or convinced that he’s genuine, then our relationship with that person will fall apart.  Our relationship with God and our prayers to Him need to be based on conviction. The resurrection of Christ gives us the power to believe that God is everything that the Scriptures tell us, that He sent His only Son to take the sins of this world, and to bring the hope of the resurrection.  We need to believe and live out the impact of eternal life here and now.  And we will need plenty of this conviction as we all are entering the uncharted territory of post-COVID world.  So, remember the resurrection of Christ and continue to approach God with confidence.

Prayer: Father, we ask that You give us the confidence to approach You daily with all our needs and struggles.  Teach us how to trust in You and to pray with the assurance of eternity in our hearts.  As we receive answers to our prayers, help us to be content and satisfied with Your will and that we would imitate the prayer of Your Son, “Not my will but yours be done.”  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 42


Lunch Break Study 

Read James 5:13-18: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.”

Questions to Consider 

  1. How does James teach us to pray for the sick?
  2. What is the connection between sickness and sin?
  3. Who has the power to pray for healing?

Notes

  1. James accents the need to pray in faith for the sick.   Obviously, we should always pray with faith, but the prayers of faith are most visibly noticeable in our ministry to the sick.       
  2. The Scriptures frequently allude to sin as a sickness.  There is clearly a connection between sin and physical maladies.  Emotional sins like unforgiveness, anger, resentment, and bitterness are often the cause of headaches, back pain, and other ailments.
  3. This passage reminds us that the prophet Elijah had a nature just like ours (sinful and human), and yet God answered his prayers miraculously.  We can have the same conviction that God will do the same for us when we pray according to His will and purpose

Evening Reflection

vlad-kutepov-yoOj8IGcROU-unsplashHow is your prayer life?  Do you feel like God is hearing you or do you feel as if your prayers are hitting a spiritual ceiling?  Ask the Lord to search your heart and to give you the desire to pray according to His will in faith.

June 1, Monday

NEW Today’s AMI QT Devotional is provided by Pastor Joseph Chung who heads Remnant Church in Manhattan, New York.  He is a graduate of Bethesda Christian University (BA) and Evangel Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Let the Justice Roll”

Amos 5:23-24 (ESV)

Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

nathan-dumlao-p3y6Zw6ydWQ-unsplashOh no, not again!

After watching what can only be described as hateful and senseless murder of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota, I spent the day praying and mourning. Like many I felt deeply troubled.  As I prayed, having been reminded of Amos 5:24, I prayed that God’s justice will roll on like a river and his righteousness like a never-failing stream.

What a broken, injustice-filled world we live in.  As I watched that horrible video—even with my heart pounding—I felt a piece of my soul dying.  So much pain.  So much anger.  The issue isn’t what Mr. Floyd allegedly did or did not do that made the police involvement necessary at the outset; rather it has everything to do with the self-evident fact that NO ONE BEARING GOD’S IMAGE DESERVES TO BE TREATED LIKE THAT—NO ONE!  As God’s handiwork, we all are, despite being marred by sin, precious in His sight.  John 3:16 says so: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” 

When will this injustice and hatred end?

Amos 5:24 starts out with a “BUT” because of what is said in previous verses: God’s condemnation of the nation of Israel—His people—for oppression and injustice.  You trample on the poor,” said “the LORD to the house of Israel,” and “you exact taxes of grain from him . . .” (Amos 5:4, 11).  It is after that the LORD declares, “But let justice roll on like a river.”

So, amid all the chaos and hate, let God’s justice flow. As His people, we must love His justice.  And as we worship Him, the way we live must demonstrate His justice!  Please note what verse 24 says: Worship without justice, to God, is a noise; He will not listen.

Let us, therefore, cry, cry out to God for His justice to reign.  Let us stand and mourn with those who are oppressed and treated unjustly.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for “JUSTICE.”

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we come to You heart-broken, deeply grieving as we have witnessed the murder of George Floyd.  We live in a deeply fragmented community where injustice and hatred run rampant. Lord, would You pour out Your mercy and compassion over us, that we may truly grieve and mourn with those who are hurting because of injustice.  Open our hearts so that we have the courage to include and stand with those who are victimized and oppressed.  May we find such joy in being vessels of Your justice. Help us to love as You have loved us. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 41


Lunch Break Study* 

Read Colossians 1:11-14: May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Questions to Consider

  1. What does the apostle Paul pray that we may be strengthened for?
  2. What is the source of our joy?
  3. What is the inheritance of the saints?

Notes

  1. Endurance and patience with joy.  The fact that Paul was in prison at the time underscores the importance of these spiritual virtues.  How many people let go of their faith when difficult times come?
  2. The inheritance of the saints.  This begs the question, “What is our inheritance?”
  3. The inheritance consists of two components:
    • First, being redeemed and forgiven on account of the work of Christ, and as a result, freely receiving eternal life; second, rewards, which are based on what we did for the Lord while living on earth (2 Cor. 5:10).

Evening Reflection*

nathan-dumlao-nT4NaC8dgT8-unsplashWhat are the sins that seem to habitually entrap you?  Considering what was addressed this morning, it behooves to ask, “How is your attitude towards people of other races?”  Pray that God would supernaturally grant you freedom from all that plagues.  Commit to confessing your sin to a close brother or sister who can pray for you and remind you of your inheritance in Christ.

*First posted on December 15, 2013, it was prepared by Pastor Jason Sato who now serves in Japan.

May 31, Sunday

NEW Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought is provided by Pastor Ryun Chang who serve as AMI Teaching Pastor.

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“It’s Not Enough Just to Believe”

Luke 1:1-4

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, 2 just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, 3 it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”

nathan-dumlao-1xwVMnEiyKY-unsplashAmong the books included in the New Testament, two really stand out—Gospel of Luke and Acts of Apostles produced as a two-volume set—because they are written by a Gentile, namely Luke, while all the rest are penned by Jewish people.  And, as any good writer would, Luke, at the outset of his letter to Theophilus—likely a Roman sponsor of  Luke’s writing project—states his purpose:  “So that you many know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (v. 4).  This is to suggest that it is not enough just to hear the gospel message and believe; in addition, we need to read and study God’s word so that we can be more certain of the things we have been taught.

Note that in the parable of sower, people who have no in-depth understanding of God’s word are liken to seeds sown on rocky ground, and the eventual outcome of their “faith” is not pretty.  Jesus says, “And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away” (Mk. 4:16-17).  Notice that the root here can stand for the depth of one’s understanding of God’s word.  So, what happened?  A shallow faith without a strong root crashed and burned when troubles came (as they always do in life—Jn. 16:33).

So how is your root?  Maybe not too deep, much like the faith of Theophilus, probably a young believer who was at a disadvantage compared to the Jewish Christians since he didn’t know the Old Testament like the latter. While knowledge isn’t everything—in fact it can putt you up (2 Cor. 8:2)—“people [can be] destroyed from lack of knowledge” as well (Hos. 4:6).  One way this can happen is when biblically illiterate believers are led astray by “deceiving spirits and things taught by demos” (a.k.a., unsound doctrines—1 Tim. 4:1b).

Pray that you may be more certain of what you believe based on 2 Peter 1:19:And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts . . .”  Diligently study God’s word.  Start today.

Prayer: Dear God, help me to increase my appetite for Your eternal word.  May I become tired of always being attracted to latest teachings just because they sound good.  Lord, strengthen my resolve to love You with my mind as well. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 40

May 30, Saturday

UPDATED Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, prepared by Pastor Jason Sato who is currently serving in Japan as a missionary, is an updated version of his blog first posted on December 15, 2013.  Jason is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“Freedom from Oppression”

Psalm 129:1-8

“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”—let Israel now say—2 “Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me. 3 The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows.” 4 The Lord is righteous; he has cut the cords of the wicked. 5 May all who hate Zion be put to shame and turned backward! 6 Let them be like the grass on the housetops, which withers before it grows up, 7 with which the reaper does not fill his hand nor the binder of sheaves his arms, 8 nor do those who pass by say, “The blessing of the Lord be upon you! We bless you in the name of the Lord

tijana-drndarski-brf7QDJNMcI-unsplashHave you ever been oppressed, not psychological but politically? Those who grew up in other countries may have but I doubt whether any of us who was born and raised in U.S. can say “yes” with a straight face.  But the nation of Israel was very familiar with oppression: first, Israel suffered as slaves in Egypt; and later, in the days of the judges, she was repeatedly oppressed by the surrounding pagan nations (i.e., the Canaanites).  Eventually, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks and finally the Roman Empire took turns in crushing this nation.

Yet in the midst of affliction, the Psalmist exudes hope.  While the common saying is, “Greatly they have afflicted me from my youth,” he adds, “yet they have not prevailed against me.”  The hope stems from his belief that the justice and blessings of God are still to come; the plowers have plowed his back but the righteous Lord will not abandon his people.  

What about us?  While very few of us have experienced political or material oppression, we are certainly familiar with slavery to sin.  Sin is a hard master, for it intends to inflict harm, causing misery (e.g., unfruitful life) and death (e.g., eternal separation from God).  But in Christ Jesus, we have been delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred to the Kingdom of the Son of God.  Now, as we cooperate with the ministry of the Holy Spirit, we can gain tangible freedom from those things, such as selfishness, insecurity or addictions that makes us miserable and unbearable to others.

Thank God for your freedom won by the body and blood of Christ.  Pray for and rejoice in the coming day when sin and death will be utterly destroyed.  Therefore, we who are in Christ can be joyful while leading a meaningful life—even in the midst of oppression or, in our case, pandemic.  Thank you, Lord.

Prayer: Father, my heart is often heavy in this world ruined by sin.  At times, suffering and disappointment are overwhelming.  I thank You that death does not get the last word.  I thank You that You stand by me and prevent sin from prevailing against me.  I trust in Your righteousness.  You will make all things right.  Mercy and life are coming soon.  In Jesus’s name I pray.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 38-39

May 29, Friday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by then staff of Remnant Westside Church in Manhattan, is an updated version of a blog first posted on September 1, 2013.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Beholding our God Amid Darkness”

Psalm 82:1-8

God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: 2 “How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah 3 Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. 4 Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” 5 They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. 6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.” 8 Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!

fabian-keller-nULxWgNF1U4-unsplashUpon examining this morning’s Psalm, it would be rather easy to focus on the cry of the psalmist, who is troubled by an unjust world that seemingly points to an indifferent and partial God.  Maybe some of us felt similarly amid so many losses incurred during the pandemic while God seems silent.  In verse 2, the psalmist dares asking how long the Lord will judge unjustly. It seems to him that those who are wicked, especially those who serve other “gods,” prosper and rule with impunity.  In fact, the 7th century B.C. prophet Habakkuk put it like this: “How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice?  Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?” (Hab. 1:2-3b).

Yet, as we consider today’s psalm again, there is a confident hope and faith that God will act with justice.  Despite what situations and circumstances may indicate, the psalmist calls out, “Arise, O God, judge the earth.” He holds firmly to the character of God (that He is just) and lets that inform his prayer. As the Psalm is bookended by this confidence (in the midst of the gods he holds judgment… for you shall inherit all the nations), it exhorts us to call out confidently to the true Lord of justice in faith, despite what our situation and circumstances may be telling us.  That is living by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7).

This morning, God is encouraging you to remember His character; He is just, and His rule will be established in the entire world.  Like the psalmist, let us cry out for Him to arise and break the power of injustice as well as the pandemic. God hears the cry of the downtrodden.

So, what are some areas of your life or the lives of those around you who may be experiencing injustice, including losses due to no fault of their own during the pandemic? Let us arise in faith to claim and proclaim the just character of God in those areas.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to really see who You are so that I can live by faith, not by sight.  Though things may look bleak at times, strengthen me to fix my eyes on the author and perfecter of my faith—Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 37


Lunch Break Study

Read Philippians 1:18b-26: “Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Based on the above passage, what seems to be a major theme of the book of Philippians?
  2. One reason Paul felt joy was because he saw how his circumstances were furthering the cause of Christ.  What is another reason for his joy?
  3. How is your joy in the Lord today? Ask him for greater joy to infuse into your life as you seek and adore Him today.

Notes

  1. Joy is a major theme in the book of Philippians and is very evident in the words of the apostle Paul despite his dire circumstances (i.e., imprisonment).  Remember, joy is an integral part of the Christian life.
  2. Paul alludes to a second reason for his joy, namely that his circumstances will result in his deliverance (v. 19-20).
  3. Personal response.

Evening Reflection

Psalms 69:30-33: I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.  31 This will please the Lord more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. 32 When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. 33 For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners

mikita-karasiou-EYu2AHUm2jE-unsplashIn order for us to cultivate a God-centered perspective and a greater ability to hear God that can powerfully affect our everyday living, adoration is the key, which is remembering and magnifying God all throughout the day.  Adoration or “Face to Face” (i.e., intimate) prayer is loving and exalting (i.e., prioritizing) the Lord before anything else and above all things, including our disappointing situations that whisper into our ears, “No, you cannot seek God under these circumstances.”  It is fixing our eyes on Christ Jesus, knowing and delighting in Him. Adoration brings us into a state of falling in love with Him and giving Him our allegiance, which only He deserves.  It is not just talking or thinking about God, but being next to Him and conversing with Him.  When we adore the LORD in this manner, that is when we are truly glorifying Him since we are saying this: God, you are the most significant entity in my life.

Tonight, begin by magnifying God instead of looking at your circumstances.   

May 28, Thursday

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

“Revolution & Interruption”

Luke 1:1-4

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Acts 2:1-2

In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.

tamas-tuzes-katai-UgFIkultx6w-unsplashDuring the Easter season, I spent time reading through the Gospel of Luke and am now making my way through Acts as we prepare for Pentecost. Taking another look at the life and teachings of Jesus in Luke and the presence and work of the Spirit in Acts has been especially helpful for me, as we all do the hard work of reevaluating and reimagining during our present season of upheaval.

My reading of these texts, while being inundated with the statements and movements of various Christians around the country during this season, has cemented my suspicion that sometimes (often times?) we in the Church lack vision for how God moves in the world and how we come to discern those movements and, in so discerning, know what to do in partnership with God. My time in Luke-Acts has highlighted two crucial things in this regard: God’s story is one of revolution and God’s work is a work of interruption.

God is transforming all of Creation – from hearts and minds to societies and kingdoms to (one day) the literal heavens and earth. Transformation is not preservation. And transformation requires change—it’s an act of revolution. If we want to understand where God is and how God is moving, then, it would behoove us to learn a little bit about revolutions—particularly how they come about and what they’re resisting to change. God’s story is a story of revolution.

And God’s work in our present world is ALWAYS a work of interruption. From the Creation (which interrupted nothing with something) to the Exodus (which interrupted Egyptian empire/rule) to the prophets (who interrupted the religious and political status quo) to the birth of Jesus (which not only interrupted Mary’s life, but turned the world upside down), to the cross (which was a painful interruption, or so it seemed, to the disciples hopes for deliverance), to the greatest interruption of them all the resurrection (which interrupted, and so overcame, death itself).

God is authoring a revolution through a series of holy interruptions. 

If this is true, as followers of Jesus, we have to learn to discern God’s movements in any given moment in history, looking for those interruptions so we can actively participate in God’s revolutionary work in our time. Theologian Willie James Jennings suggests this is the agenda of the book of Acts, “to narrate how one discerns God’s movements” – what they look like and how Creation responds.

God is at work right now through the Spirit in the world today. So, are we discerning those movements? And how are we, who are not only creatures but those with whom the Spirit of God dwells, called to respond?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, please free me from my tendency toward people-pleasing and self-gratification. Make me aware of the other masters in my life today, so that, having been liberated from them, I can discern what You are doing in the world and then join. Help me to serve You even when it is difficult. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today:  Isaiah 36


Lunch Break Study

Read Acts 2:36-47: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

Question to Consider

  1. These verses pick up right after the Holy Spirit comes to the Church for the very first time at Pentecost. What was the people’s (v. 37) response to the movement of the Spirit in Acts 2?
  2. How did Peter instruct them? What is the significance of these next steps? What promise did he give them?
  3. What was the result of their obedience in response to the movement of the Spirit? What do you notice about their devotion? How does this encourage or challenge you to respond to the Spirit today?

Notes

  1. The people asked, “What should we do?” Why?  It’s because they were deeply convicted after hearing the truth concerning Jesus and the message of the Gospel and turned to God (through Peter and the Apostles) for guidance and direction.   
  2. Peter told them to repent and be baptized. Repent simply means to change one’s mind(set) or thinking. Repentance is always required as we seek to respond to the truth and movements of God. Peter also tells them to be baptized. This is more than just being dipped or sprinkled with water. The baptism ceremony is an sign of a reality in our lives and hearts—that reality is our choice to be immersed in intimacy with Jesus through relationship and in the body of Christ, the Church, as we do life together with one another. The promise Peter gives is that the listeners will receive the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s presence in the lives of believers is not something we earn or have to conjure up; it’s a gift of grace given to all those who turn to God in repentance and are immersed in relationship with God and God’s people in community.
  3. The result was a radical and generative community, fully devoted in self-giving love and care for one another. There are lots of things to notice about their devotion—take note of what they were devoted to and how they expressed their devotion. The thing that strikes me most is that it was all organic and unprescribed. We often need rule and law to tell us to give and share, gather and pray, love and care. But there were no laws demanding this—this was their natural (reasonable, even – Romans 12:2) response to the Good News and the gift they’d received. They were caught up in the love of God and thus drawn into God’s love for those around them.

Evening Reflection

valentin-hermann-XnE_ghJTqAE-unsplash“God is authoring a revolution through a series of holy interruptions.”

Do you find yourself resisting change and transformation? If yes, why? How does the good news of the Kingdom of God (the Gospel, that God is bringing forth a New Creation) encourage you to desire and participate in God’s transformative work? In what specific ways is God inviting you (and your community) to be transformed in this season? What practical steps of obedience can you take in that direction?

May 27, Wednesday

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

“Holy Discontentment”

Hebrews 12:25-29

See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! 26 At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; 29 for indeed our God is a consuming fire.

daniel-schludi-jj7KUeTRTCE-unsplashTo my surprise, the pervasive sentiment I’m noticing in myself in this season is discontentment. And when I talk to others, I sense discontentment in them as well (even though some describe it as boredom). The luxury of routine and ample provision can leave us thinking, “There must be more than this!” Others express it as frustration with the brokenness we sense in ourselves and the world. Still others express it as confusion and uncertainty about our purpose, worth, and life path. And while I imagine some of these feelings were present before this pandemic, they seem harder to ignore nowadays.

God’s promise in every situation is to work for our good (Romans 8:28). And I believe that God, in grace and mercy, is entering into our present mess to shake everything that can be shaken so that what is unshakable remains. We have a profound opportunity in this moment to contend with what is broken (in ourselves, relationships, community, society, etc.), bring it to God, and begin to imagine something new and unshakable.

As the world shuts down and the effects radiate throughout our lives, our illusion of control is shaken. As the behaviors of each person pose a palpable threat to the lives of others, the lie of independence in shaken. As our present systems continue to fall short of our collective needs (to put it mildly), we are invited to question our social structures as they are utterly shaken. As our jobs change (in fact, no jobs for many), we’re trapped in the house; vacations are cancelled and weddings are put on hold.  However, as our plans are interrupted and life as we know it quivers, God is inviting us to STOP and take note of all that’s being shaken.

I suspect this is the source of much of our discontentment. In the face of a world falling apart, we are sensing in ourselves a hunger for that which is unshakable, a hunger for the Kingdom of God. As we move forward from here, our world won’t be the same. And that may seem scary, and our impulse may be to fight to preserve and revert, but we have to remember that the world is broken (and so are we) and God’s whole Kingdom project is not one of preservation but of transformation.

The longer we sit in this moment with God and one another, I pray our discontent with business as usual grows. I pray that we begin to cry, “I want a new world!” Or, better yet, “I want to join God in making a new world.” And as we do so, may we rejoice and give thanks to our God who has already promised, “I am making everything new!…these words are trustworthy and true” (Revelation 21:5).

Prayer: Sovereign God, help me to remember that I am where I am and that I do what I do because of your sovereign plan. Open my eyes so that I can join You in the remaking of this world. Help me to partner with you in the Kingdom work You have for me to do today. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isiah 35


Lunch Break Study

Read Micah 6:6-8: With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Question to Consider

  1. In verse 8, the prophet explains what God requires of God’s people. What are those requirements? How do they reveal God’s heart and desire for us?   
  2. The prophet compares what God actually requires (v. 8) with the religious rituals God’s people chose to offer God instead (vv.6-7). How do you find yourself falling into the trap of offering rituals over relationship?    
  3. What would it mean for you to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God in your present context? What is at least one practical way you can live out this verse this week?

Notes

  1. God requires that God’s people: (1) act justly (doing what’s right and fair and good in our relationships with one another), (2) love mercy (exercising kindness in our dealings with one another), (3) walk humbly with God (leaning into our need for and dependence upon God at every step). God’s heart and desire is for relationship—the relationship we have with God and the relationships we have with one another. This is what’s important to God—just and merciful relationships over religious rituals.
  2. While we don’t practice the same religious rituals, the original audience practiced (those listed in the verses), we certainly have our own versions of religiosity. What are the things you can fall into by routine without actually engaging your heart in loving (just and merciful) relationship with God and others?
  3. Personal reflection.

Evening Reflection

noble-brahma-kZWQ4mT-TlU-unsplashDo you sense things being shaken in your life or in the world around you in this season? In what specific ways? How have you responded? How might God be inviting you into holy discontentment and deeper hunger for the Kingdom of God?

May 26, Tuesday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on March 21, 2013; it has been updated. Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“The Most Secure Foundation”

Psalm 26:8-12 (ESV)

O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. 9 Do not sweep my soul away with sinners, nor my life with bloodthirsty men, 10 in whose hands are evil devices, and whose right hands are full of bribes. 11 But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me. 12 My foot stands on level ground; in the great assembly I will bless the Lord.

veronique-bauer-D4Dg8hpMahI-unsplashOne thing that has been made very clear amid the pandemic is this: The most secure foundation upon which we can build our lives is not our careers or being fit; rather, it’s God alone and the worship of Him.  The psalmist expresses his genuine love for worship as a reason why his fate should not be the same as that of the wicked.

As God’s creation, we are made for one glorious purpose, which is to worship Him with our entire being.  Sin has robbed us of that joy, and as a result, worshiping of idols has taken the place of the true worship of God.  It is impossible for man to exist apart from worship; it is just a matter of what we decide to bow our lives to.  John Calvin called the human mind a factory of idols because of our tendency to worship everything else but the One who came to save us.  As said at the outset, money, career, relationships, and our own ambitions are poor substitutes for the one true God.  Just as the classic hymn proclaims, “On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand”, this psalm challenges us to place our feet on the unshakeable ground of a life devoted to Christ alone.  If that’s your positive take away from the pandemic, then, you are more ready today than before to faithfully complete your journey on earth.

So, spend a few moments to worship God this morning.  Declare to Him your desire to be in his presence and to make Christ the only object of your worship.  (A couple of songs I would recommend is “In Christ Alone” by Stuart Townsend and “Cornerstone” by Hillsong.)

Prayer: Lord, I confess that my heart can be pulled in a million directions.  Though I want to love you with all my heart, mind, and soul, it is difficult to keep my spiritual focus amid my hectic life.  Help me to see that building my life on anything less than the rock of Christ, is to invite disaster into my life.  May You be enthroned in the highest place of my heart as I give You my worship. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 34


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV): “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

Questions to Consider

  1. What does it mean to build our house on the rock?
  2. How will our lives be tested and judged by God? (1 Corinthians 3:13)
  3. What is the connection between our obedience to God’s word and our love for Him?  (John 14:15)

Notes

  1. It is important to remember that the Christian faith is not about responding to the call of Christ with a short flurry of activity, but it is about building a foundation of lifelong commitment and persevering obedience.  These things will sustain your spiritual life, as the storms of life will come, soon or later.     
  2. 1 Corinthians 13:3 teaches that all our lives will be tested by fire on the day of judgment.  Whatever we have built on the foundation of Christ, whether it be gold, silver, hay, or straw, will determine the eternal reward of the works we have done on earth. (1 Cor. 13:4).    
  3. The description of love in the Bible is never based on sentiment alone.  Love is always ascribed to an action and the love of Christ cannot be divorced from our obedience to his commandments.  In fact, the great test of love is our willingness to obey all that He has commanded us to do.                

Evening Reflection

wolfgang-hasselmann-6w_9hr_DC7s-unsplashAs this day ends, reflect the way that you have spent today.  Were you wise with your time, money, and words?  Pray for God’s help in numbering the days you have been given.  In these tumultuous and unprecedented times, remember that there is only one thing that remains constant, Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.   Build your lives on that truth.   

May 25, Monday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on February 28, 2015, is provided by Mei Lan Thallman who serves at Grace Covenant Church in Philadelphia.  Mei Lan is a graduate of Asbury College (BA) and Asbury Theological Seminary (MA) in Kentucky.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Don’t Ever Give Up Praying”

Isaiah 55:8-13

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. [9] “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. [10] As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,[11] so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. [12] You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.[13] Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign that will endure forever.”

vincent-ghilione-mVoH3QQOYJs-unsplashAs a first-generation Christian in my family, I have been praying for the salvation of my family members for a long time. And I am so grateful to experience firsthand how God has used the intercessory prayers of the body of Christ to bring salvation to my beloved mother.  When she passed away unexpectedly eight years ago, my greatest comfort was the assurance of knowing that she was with Jesus.  But the process of praying for her salvation took more than 10 years.

Recently, I was feeling discouraged by the lack of visible breakthroughs in the ongoing 23 plus years of interceding for my siblings’ salvation and the heart wrenching circumstances that they are in.  A thought of, “What’s the use, you might as well give up praying for them,” came to my mind.  Just then, I felt the tugging of the Holy Spirit, reminding me of several prayers that were prayed over me: The first prayer was a prophetic word from a pastor that God has called me to be a spiritual pillar for my family.  The second prayer was that God was teaching me a new way to see, to respond, and to pray for my dysfunctional family through His perspective and not my own.

The above Isaiah passage reminds me that part of praying is yielding my thoughts and understanding to God’s thoughts and understanding.  My focus must be on God, His character, His ongoing eternal redemptive plan, and not on the lack of results and the circumstances.  On this side of heaven, 10 and 23 years seem like a long time, but from the perspective of eternity, they are like a blink of an eye or a drop in the bucket.

When I realign my thoughts and prayers according to the lordship and anointing of the Holy Spirit, God not only hears all my prayers, but He is faithful and able to accomplish His redemptive plan for the people He has laid on my heart to pray for; that is, in His timing and ways.  My job is to keep on praying in cooperating with the Holy Spirit without ceasing.

For whom and what have you been burdened to intercede for lately?

So, please don’t ever give up praying and never lose hope—all the more so as we are entering the uncharted territory of post COVID-19 world in which fear and uncertainty reign.  Know that your prayers are making all the difference in people’s eternal destinies and in God’s kingdom.  God can use our prayers to equip us to co-labor with the Holy Spirit and empower us to make an eternal difference in people’s lives.  “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him (through intercession), so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13).

Prayer: Father, no words can adequately capture the level of gratefulness I feel towards You for hearing my prayer.  Lord, I am weak, and I get easily discouraged. Please, remind me of Your mighty presence so that I am prompted in the Spirit, once again, to cry out to You. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 33


Lunch Break Study*

Read Philippians 3:12-16: Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Questions to Consider

  1. In this passage is the apostle Paul alluding to justification or sanctification?
  2. What do you know about sanctification and how is it different from justification?
  3. Do we play a part in our sanctification process?  What do you think?
  4. Is God convicting you of a certain area in your life?  In what ways do you need to “press on” and “strain forward” to live out that God-given conviction?

Notes

  1. In this passage, Paul is referring to the sanctification of believers.
  2. Whereas justification is the right standing before God that was established through Christ’s work on the cross, sanctification is the continuing process by which the Holy Spirit forms the perfect sinless image of Christ in our lives.  This is a process that began when we came to know Christ personally and will be completed on the day of His second coming (Phil. 1:6).
  3. One might think that since it is God who is working out our sanctification, we don’t have to do anything and we can passively go through life doing whatever we want and God will take care of the rest. Paul calls such thinking immature!  Fully understanding the sanctification process in a believer’s life, Paul was very active in seeking Christlikeness in his own life (“press on” v.12, 14; “straining forward” v.13).
  4. Personal response.

Evening Reflection**

d-n-pRQofkq7BG0-unsplash

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our maker” (Ps. 95:6)

“Thank you, Lord Jesus, for revealing yourself to me.  I love thinking about you as my Maker who has an unfathomable and unending love for your people.  You knew me since the foundation of time and even while I was in my mother’s womb. You fashioned me with your mind and heart and love, giving me a plan and a purpose to live in fellowship with you and for your glory. Your love runs deep and touches my very core.  And you open my eyes to truly see your glory through your creation, for you have created nature, people and community through your magnificent power. Yet you are a God who lives in me, and you have always been there since I turned my heart to you.  Thank you. Amen.

Tonight, as you begin communing with God, freely ask him, “What were your thoughts about me when you formed me in my mother’s womb?”   And declare his magnificent attributes!

*Prepared by Pastor David Alas (first posted on September 22, 2013).

**Prepared by Pastor Bruce Yi, the leader pastor of Remnant Westside Church (first posted on September 22, 2013)

May 24, Sunday

UPDATED 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 16, 2013.  He is a graduate of University of Wisconsin (BA) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“He is So Unlike the Rest”

Luke 9:10-17

When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, 11 but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. 12 Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, “Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here.” 13 He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.” 14 (About five thousand men were there.) But he said to his disciples, “Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each.” 15 The disciples did so, and everyone sat down. 16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. 17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. He replied, “You give them something to eat.” They answered, “We have only five loaves of bread and two fish—unless we go and buy food for all this crowd.”

lucasvphotos-b1MD6sFdELI-unsplashHow is your spirituality, that is, your walk with the Lord while being stuck at home for weeks on end during the ongoing pandemic?  I, for one, was very encouraged by this passage today because I can relate with the disciples.  Just like them, I also go up and down spiritually. Yet, I see that God does not give up on his disciples, who, by the way, weren’t chosen because of their brilliance in the first place (1 Cor. 1:27-29).  Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus rebuking his men for their lack of faith (Matt. 14:31), dullness of mind (Mk. 7:18) and egotism (Mk. 9:33-37).  In this passage the lack of faith on the part of disciples is highlighted.

Before the great miracle of feeding the five thousand, we see that the disciples were sent out, and they were used to proclaim the good news and heal people everywhere. After this great experience, you would think that the disciples would react with faith when Jesus asked them, “You give them something to eat”; but instead, they respond with unbelief.  Yet, Jesus doesn’t rebuke the disciples here (as he does in other places)—or recruit twelve new disciples to replace them; but He continues to use them in the miracle of feeding the five thousand.  He has them go into the crowd and put everyone in groups of 50, then he gives the five loaves and two fishes to his men to distribute to the people.  What’s so encouraging is this: The disciples showed unbelief, yet Christ still used them to do His ministry.  Yes, Christ is so unlike the rest.

Living a Christian life is not a series of just success after success, but there are also failures. Take heart brothers and sisters! Our God continues to love us in our failures, and He is not finished with us yet. God is with us and He will work in us to completion.  Let me leave you with Philippians 1:6 that says, “[God] who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”   

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I am so grateful that my mistakes do not disqualify me from neither Your love nor Your willingness to use me.  Thank You that during this process in which I am bestowed with Your grace in abundance, I will be transformed through the Spirit. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Isaiah 32