April 15, Good Friday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on November 20, 2015, is provided by Pastor Jason Sato who, along with his wife Jessica and three young children, serves in Japan as an AMI missionary.  Jason, a graduate of UC San Diego (BS) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.), just moved to Tokyo where he plans to, the Lord willing, plant a church. 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Longing for the King”

Nehemiah 12:45-46 (ESV)

And they performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did the singers and the gatekeepers, according to the command of David and his son Solomon. [46] For long ago in the days of David and Asaph there were directors of the singers, and there were songs of praise and thanksgiving to God.

Today is Good Friday—the day we commemorate as that historical moment when Christ willingly bore our sins on the cross.  So who is this Christ? 

When my wife and I were planning our wedding, there were many details to take care of – the food, the decorations, the invitations, the music, etc.  Our wedding day came, and many things that had been given a great deal of attention suddenly became less important.   Of course, we enjoyed the different aspects of the day, but in the end, neither a place nor a schedule was nearly as important as a person.  And the most significant person—God-Man, to be exact—the world has ever known is this Christ, also known as the Messiah. 

Israel has restored the temple, the city wall, the covenant, the law, the sacrifices, the priests and the singers.  But one thing is conspicuously missing in this restored kingdom – the King! 

In chapter 12, King David is mentioned multiple times.  The Levites and singers are organized by David (v. 24, 36).  Their service and worship unto the Lord were commanded by David (v. 45-46).  Jerusalem is the city of David and the palace is the house of David (v. 37).  

As Israel considers the restoration of Jerusalem, they look back to the greatest king in their history, but they also look forward.  God had promised David an eternal King who would come from his lineage.

So, as much as the people of God rejoice in a restored city and temple, incredible worship, and the establishment of godly institutions, they long for the coming King— the very Son of God.  As much as we rejoice in the blessings of God, in His work in our churches, in the events and services, where is our longing for King Jesus?  

The Scriptures tell us that one day we will no longer see Jesus as through a mirror dimly, but we will see Him face to face (1 Cor. 13:12).  On this Good Friday, we long for the return of the King.  Would nothing else satisfy our hearts!  

Prayer: Oh Lord, strip away all other distractions and goals.  May Your gifts and so many other good things never take Your place in my heart.  May every victory in You and every blessing grow my longing to be with You forever.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 3


Lunch Break Study

Read Psalm 84:10-12 (ESV): For a day in your courts is betterthan a thousand elsewhere.I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my Godthan dwell in the tents of wickedness.[11] For the LORD God is a sun and shield;the LORD bestows favor and honor.No good thing does he withholdfrom those who walk uprightly.[12] O LORD of hosts,blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Question to Consider

1. What is a day in the courts of God better than?

2. If we are doorkeepers in the house of God and avoid the tents of the wicked, what may we lose?

3. Yet why is dwelling in the house of the Lord so good?

Notes

1. One day in God’s courts is better than a thousand anywhere else – better than a thousand days on vacation, at our dream job, or at home with our families (v. 10). 

2. As servants, we may lose our pride and our control.  Avoiding the tents of the wicked may cost us temporary “blessings” in this life like wealth, reputation, or power.

3. Because God withholds no good thing from His people (v. 11).  Therefore, we miss nothing and enjoy everything that is good in the presence of God.


Evening Reflection

Take a moment to think about your day.  What activities increased your longing for the presence of God?  What activities dulled your longing?

April 14, Thursday

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

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Physical Blindness, Spiritual Sight”

1 Kings 14:1-6

At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick. 2 And Jeroboam said to his wife, “Arise, and disguise yourself, that it not be known that you are the wife of Jeroboam, and go to Shiloh. Behold, Ahijah the prophet is there, who said of me that I should be king over this people. 3 Take with you ten loaves, some cakes, and a jar of honey, and go to him. He will tell you what shall happen to the child.” 4 Jeroboam’s wife did so. She arose and went to Shiloh and came to the house of Ahijah. Now Ahijah could not see, for his eyes were dim because of his age. 5 And the Lord said to Ahijah, “Behold, the wife of Jeroboam is coming to inquire of you concerning her son, for he is sick. Thus and thus shall you say to her.” When she came, she pretended to be another woman. 6 But when Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, he said, “Come in, wife of Jeroboam. Why do you pretend to be another? For I am charged with unbearable news for you. 

There are many examples in the Scripture of God striking people with blindness – usually these people are in some sort of sin and are not aware of their own spiritual blindness and so God uses physical blindness to illustrate in their bodies what’s going on in their hearts. Here we see the opposite going on: The prophet of God is physically blind but his spiritual sight couldn’t be clearer. Both of these examples of the symbolism of blindness found in the Scripture should help us see just how prone we are to over-value and over-emphasize that which is seen. 

We are a people obsessed with appearances. We clothe ourselves meticulously, style our hair particularly, tweeze, clip, and spray ourselves into external presentability. And while I was raised in the South and indoctrinated with the familiar Bible Belt saying, “Look your best, do your best, be your best,” I do sometimes pause and wonder if too much emphasis is put on the first of those three. 

Our passage for today reminds us of this tendency in our own heart to over-value external appearances. We spend more time beautifying our outside world (be it our physical bodies, our lifestyle, our possession, etc.) than we do our inside world. And we bring this tendency to our relationship with God as well. We come to Him with all types of posturing and disguising. But our story for today reminds us that God sees everything and knows us beyond our disguises. At first mention, this is a fearsome thought – there’s nowhere to run and nothing is hidden. But for those who’ve encountered the Gospel, we know that there couldn’t be better news. We are fully known and fully loved by Almighty God. 

As we come to God today, may we come honestly – with our whole hearts, all our brokenness, all our confusion, all our sickness and need. And as we do so, may we find the peace and comfort that comes from being fully known and fully loved. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for knowing me beyond my disguises. I am so prone to focusing on that which is seen, but You see and know all the unseen things. Sometimes I’m even able to fool myself. Help me to be honest today – about who I am, where I am, and what I need. Help me to come to You honestly today and experience the blessings of Your unconditional love. 

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 2


Lunch Break Study

Read Hebrews 14:16: Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Questions to Consider

  1. Why are we able to draw near to God with confidence?
  2. Why do you think the writer of Hebrews needed to make these statements to the people of God?
  3. Why is it important that we come to God confidently (and honestly)? 


Notes

  1. We can confidently approach God because of Jesus. Jesus not only bridges the gap of separation making a relationship with God possible, but He sympathizes with us in our struggles because He can honestly say He’s been there. Although Jesus did not give way to temptation, He did experience the temptations we feel.  And although He did not sin, He did feel the full weight of sin on the cross. So, more than anyone, He knows where we are coming from. 
  2. We are prone to conceal and to hide when we are in need and especially when we are in sin. Just like Adam and Eve after the fall (Gen. 3), we cover ourselves and conceal out of shame. But Scripture teaches us that those are the very moments when we need to expose our needs to God and invite Him to come in and meet them as only He can. 
  3. It is important that we come to God confidently because we desperately need His help. If we don’t come to Him, if we insist upon concealing and hiding, we will miss out on the mercy and grace He wants to give us as a help in our times of need. 

Evening Reflection

The old hymn “Just As I Am” describes the privilege we have to approach God in all honesty and transparency. Spend sometime meditating on the lyrics below. Ask the Lord to convince your heart of the truth of these lyrics so that you’ll come to Him in full transparency.  

Just as I am, without one plea,
but that thy blood was shed for me,
and that thou bidd’st me come to thee, 
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, and waiting not
to rid my soul of one dark blot,
to thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, though tossed about
with many a conflict, many a doubt;
fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
sight, riches, healing of the mind,
yea, all I need, in thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thou wilt receive;
wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve,
because thy promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, thy love unknown
has broken every barrier down;
now to be thine, yea, thine alone,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

Just as I am, of that free love
the breadth, length, depth, and height to prove,
here for a season, then above:
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

April 13, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 21, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Doing Something About Worry Producers in Life”

Lk. 14:17-9 (ESV)

“And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. . . .19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them.  Please have me excused.”

1 Cor. 7:29 (NIV)

“What I mean, brothers, is that the time is short.  From now on . . . 30 those who mourn, [live] as if they did not; . . . those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. . . . 35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.”

When we have a lot on our mind, it’s difficult to think about serving God, much less pray or read the Bible.  Thus, the Bible exhorts us to avoid circumstances that sap the desire to grow in our spiritual life.  Peter says that husbands should treat their wives with respect (thereby avoiding marital conflicts) “so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Pet. 3:7).  On the night of Jesus’ arrest, Peter, John and James failed to stay up to pray along with Jesus because they were “exhausted from sorrow” (Lk. 22:45).   

In addition, Paul declared, “Do not be anxious about anything” so as to “present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6).  Adding to the list of things that produce anxiety, it is buying things and then using them.   Once, I counseled a newly-wed couple who, despite making over $100,000 a year (in the 1990s), still racked up a debt of $40,000.  In contrast, I was making one-third of that amount, with two kids, but without any debt.  The source of their problem?  They were part of the average American who spend 110% of their income each year, thanks to credit cards and easy loans.   

While the person in the parable may have used cash to purchase the oxen, he shares one thing in common with today’s consumers: making impulsive purchases.  He bought the animals, ostensibly to till the land, without first examining them (ESV). That’s like buying a used car without test-driving it, which is very impulsive.  The problem with modern consumers is buying things with money they don’t have, not thinking about how the ever-increasing debt will make their lives more anxious, which, then, produces worries.  Of course, once you buy new toys, gadgets and places, you need to devote time and effort to enjoy them.  A typical outcome of this lifestyle is less time spent getting to know and serving God.

If the apostle Paul were alive today, besides saying, “Don’t get too attached to the things you buy” (the nutshell of 1 Cor. 7:30), the Holy Spirit would lead him to say:  “Don’t buy things you cannot afford; buy things you need instead of trying to impress people”; and avoid debt anxiety so you can pray.” 

Prayer: Father, I acknowledge that You are the sovereign King who has lordship over my life.  As your vassal, I ought to be totally devoted to You in every aspect.  Lord, give me wisdom so that I won’t let my buying habits get in the way of getting to know and serve You.  May the Spirit fill me continuously.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 1


Lunch Break Study

Read: Jn. 14:1 (ESV): “Let not your hearts be troubled.  Believe in God; believe also in me.” 

Matt. 26:38, 39 (NIV): “[Jesus] began to be sorrowful and troubled. [38] Then he said to them, ‘My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. . . . Yet not as I will, but as you will.’”

Phil. 4:19, 6-7 (ESV): “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus”. . . . [6] “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. [7] And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Question to Consider

1. Some preachers equate worries and anxiety as not having faith.  How would you respond to that?

2. How can we better manage our worries and anxieties?  What do these verses suggest?

3. What worries or anxieties are you experiencing right now?  How should you manage them?

Notes

1. It depends on what is behind our worries.  The admission by Jesus, fully human and divine, before facing the cross indicates distress and anxiety; what human wouldn’t be?  How to pay for children’s college or being able to make the car payment (bought at a reasonable price to meet a need) can be stressful, but it doesn’t mean we do not have faith.  But there are types of worries that show lack of faith: it is when, despite God’s assuring words about our secure position in Christ, we constantly worry about what people think about us to the point of always exaggerating, making purchases to impress, etc.

2. I use the word “manage” here.  It is not like worries and anxieties are going to leave us for good.  They are going to be around and unless we don’t manage them well, they will stick to us like glue.  Through our daily time with God, we need to be reminded that we can trust Jesus, his promise to meet all our needs, and to ultimately say to God, “Not my wishes or will but your will be done in my life.”  That’s how we can decrease the size of anxiety that aims to bring us down. 

3. Right now, what causes me distress is where my last child (senior) will go to college, and whether we can pay for it.  This is ironic because God has already shown us through our first two children that He is ready, able, and willing to help us: I need to be reminded of that daily. 


Evening Reflection

Things (more bad than good, it seems) happen every day, right?  So what happened today that increased your anxiety level?  How did you manage it?  Go to God now; let go of your anxiety through Christ.   

April 12, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s AMI Devotional Thought, first posted on November 3, 2015, is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI, who in the past has served as a staff at several AMI churches.  He is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Cairn University (MA).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Stress and Prayer”

Nehemiah 4:4-5

Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. 5 Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders.

We have all had those days at work that were irritatingly stressful, frustratingly unproductive, and/or mind-numbingly tedious.  After such days, most of us feel the need to “unwind”—and how we do so depend on the person: Some of us eat comforting foods, others veg out in front of the TV for a couple of hours, or others work out.  One pastor shared how he would sometimes have to go walk the aisles of his local grocery story or toy store, not buying anything, but allow the time to clear away the frustration.  I suppose each of these methods has a way of calming our nerves and relaxing us a bit, but I wonder whether these forms of unwinding are ultimately beneficial to us, or if they act as just band aids.  Honestly, how much can television help us overcome work and family issues?  And when we “unwind,” are we seeking resolution or escape?

Yesterday, we read about how Sanballat and Tobiah both tried to discourage the Jews from rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem.  I’m sure their words caused Nehemiah and the people much grief.  In today’s excerpt, Nehemiah gives us the time honored Christian method of dealing with stress: prayer.  He prayed to the One who was able to fix their situation and avenge His people.  Enough of us have adequate theologies when it comes to prayer—we know God hears and answers prayer.  We also know it is a powerful force in the advancement in God’s kingdom.  In fact, many of us have experienced the Lord’s comfort, direction, power, and love through prayer.  However, not enough of us have practically gotten into the habit of taking things to the Lord before it becomes a crisis.  

How is your prayer life?  What is your initial reaction to stressful or difficult times?  It would be amazing if the AMI community learned to turn to God and tell Him about our stressful days and the problems we face before or instead of looking to escape through other avenues.  

Prayer: Lord, help me to cast my anxieties on You, knowing that You care for me (1 Pet. 5:7).  Help me to look to You first as Your child and friend.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 28


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.  When did James exhort us to pray?  Under what circumstances?

2.  Why did James reference Elijah?  What was he trying to show?

3.  How are you doing when it comes to praying in faith?  

Notes

1.  Although the passage says that we should pray when suffering, in joyful circumstances, and when sick or under sin, the breadth of circumstances implies that we should always be praying (1 Thess. 5:17).  

2.  Verse 17 is interesting because the implication is that Elijah asked God to usher in the three year drought described in 1 Kings 17-18, as opposed to God telling Elijah to make the declaration.  If this is true (and the 1 Kings account gives no reason to think otherwise), then think about the power that a man/woman of God has through prayer!  

3. Personal response


Evening Reflection

Instead of reflecting on your day, take 10 minutes to pray to the Lord.  If you’ve already prayed earlier today, sit and wait (or meditate) on Him to speak or give you an impression.  Let’s use this time to listen as well as to speak.  

April 11, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 19, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“The Spirit of Civil Rights Movement that is Being Quickly Forgotten”

2 Cor. 10:4 (NIV) 

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.”

Is. 53:7 (ESV)

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”

The 18th century historian Edward Gibbon argued that Christianity contributed to the demise of the Roman Empire in two ways: first, a belief in a better afterlife discouraged people from making sacrifices for a greater cause; second, pacifism fostered by Christian “doctrines of patience and [cowardliness]” weakened Rome’s warrior spirit.  Gibbon’s first point has some merit even today: yearning for the rapture to come, some Christians seem unconcerned about making this world a better place.  Gibbon’s second point, however, shows his ignorance on how human hearts are really changed: It is “not by might nor by power” but by [the] Spirit that enables us to valiantly uphold a just cause.  

When the 4th century monk named Telemachus came to Rome from the East, he was shocked by the gladiatorial combats.  So, “stepping down into the arena, [he] endeavored to stop the men who were wielding their weapons against one another” (Theodoret).  The spectators, indignant at the interruption, stoned him to death.  Emperor Honorius, impressed by the monk’s conviction, officially put a stop to gladiatorial fights at the outset of 404 A.D.

The Civil Rights movement, inspired by Rosa Parks and led by Rev. Martin Luther King, was no different. King, using the biblical narrative of Exodus to inspire African-Americans in their fight for freedom from racial repression, never wavered from the just cause even when batons and fire hoses were used to halt the marchers.  That is to say, they fought the Bull Connors of the world with meekness and prayer—totally counterintuitive to secular world.  However, the conscience of the indifferent American public was stricken upon seeing on television the images of Black Americans being treated like lambs being slaughtered by butchers and yet not responding with violence of their own. While neither the terrorism of the Black Panther Party nor the radicalism the Nation of Islam melted America’s hardened heart, the valiant and non-violent Civil Rights marchers did—a lesson that is being forgotten in today’s divisive America. 

On this day, remember that the spiritual unity in Christ triumphs over any other affiliation, even racial, for “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slaves nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).  This is why the church, as salt and light of the world, can strive for a just cause (but not with the weapons of the world), even if it affects people who do not look like us.

Prayer: O God, we’re ashamed that despite the unity in Christ, we’ve allowed every sociological barrier, including racial, to divide your church.  We’re guilty of relying on the weapons of this world—violence, false information, dishonest analysis, to get our ways.  Lord, let your truth reign in our hearts! Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 27


Lunch Break Study

Read Matt. 26:52-3 (NIV): “With that, one of Jesus’ companions (Peter) reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.  ‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. [53] Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?’”

Zech. 4:6 (NIV): So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.”

Question to Consider

1. Contrast Peter’s action with that of Christ’s.  How are they fundamentally different?

2. How would you interpret Zechariah 4:6 in light of the examples of Telemachus and Rev. King?

3. Racial tension has been escalating since last year.  What can you do to be part of the solution rather than the problem?

Notes

1. Peter’s action represents waging a spiritual war with the weapons of the world; it always results in the escalation of the problem; Christ’s way shows that the road to victory, that is, after a temporary setback, is submission to God’s will that does not involve violence.

2. The “Spirit” in these contexts would mean demonstrating essential aspects of Christ’s character and work, which means willingness to suffer for a greater good and not resist, as well as to strive for justice and peace, etc.

3. I know many people who are making a difference: teachers in inner-city schools who tough it out with students, many of whom need extra attention. Also, this includes people who serve in a shelter for the homeless to help the children as well as the women by sharing of God’s love, etc.  


Evening Reflection

You probably heard and/or saw some public demonstration of Martin Luther King’s day.  No one except Christ is flawless; King was no exception.  While we recognize that God used him, we worship Christ.  Pray for the relief of racial tension in America.  Pray about getting involved in the inner-city ministry.  

April 10, Sunday

REPOST  Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, first posted on September 13, 2015, is written by Andy Kim who is an associate pastor at Radiance Christian Church in San Francisco.  Andy is a graduate of Northwestern University and Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Thought for Food for the Weekend

The Myth of Multitasking”

2 Kings 17:24-33

And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities. 25 And at the beginning of their dwelling there, they did not fear the Lord. Therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. 26 So the king of Assyria was told, “The nations that you have carried away and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the law of the god of the land. Therefore he has sent lions among them, and behold, they are killing them, because they do not know the law of the god of the land.” 27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, “Send there one of the priests whom you carried away from there, and let him go and dwell there and teach them the law of the god of the land.” 28 So one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and lived in Bethel and taught them how they should fear the Lord. 29 But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities in which they lived. 30 The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashima, 31 and the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. 32 They also feared the Lord and appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. 33 So they feared the Lord but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away.

There’s a good chance that as you are reading this QT (perhaps after having returned from church), you are in transit, planning out the rest of the day, preparing your next project, etc. Efficiency and productivity is life’s game and multi-tasking is the winning chip. However, recent studies have shown that multi-tasking is simply a myth that doesn’t exist. No matter the activities involved, multi-tasking has counter intuitive consequences such as losing focus, creativity, productivity, and time.

Today’s passage shows us the consequences of multi-tasking, or in the case of the pagan nations, “multi-worshipping.” Ironically, these pagan nations are brought into the land of God where they are taught to fear God.  Rather than simply turning from their previous religious practices, they took the “best of both worlds” approach—they worshipped both their own gods while fearing God Himself.  That’s like mixing gasoline and water; it is good for nothing.

Many of us take the same approach with God. We think that we can live for God while still living for many of our own desires.  That’s like mixing gasoline and water as well; it is good for nothing.  As long as our theology includes the fear of God and our apologetics prove His existence, we feel everything is okay—even though how we spend time and money indicates a divided heart.  Just as the mind was not created to multi-task and focus on different activities, the heart was not made to love more than one God.  In other words, we cannot follow both the world and God; to do both would rob us of fully experiencing God.

Let’s take some time to evaluate our own hearts. What are the areas that we still hold onto and put before God? At the root of multi-tasking is a fear of losing something. In the same way, many of us are scared to surrender some of the things we hold onto, having the fear of losing out. However, it is only when we fully surrender ourselves to God, can we fully experience His presence and faithfulness over our lives. Let’s stop following after things that bring temporary satisfaction; and let’s worship Christ who is the only One who can truly satisfy us.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I confess that my heart is divided and there are still things that I put before You. I repent of the areas that rob my devotion to You. As it says in Psalm 86:11, “Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 26

April 9, Saturday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, first posted on June 13, 2015, is provided by Phillip Chen who is associate pastor at Kairos Christian Church in San Diego.  Phil is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“You Can Hide Nothing from God!”

1 Kings 3:23-28 (ESV)

Then the king said, “The one says, ‘This is my son that is alive, and your son is dead’; and my son is the living one.’” And the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So a sword was brought before the king. And the king said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” Then the woman whose son was alive said to the king, because her heart yearned for her son, “Oh, my lord, give her the living child, and by no means put him to death.” But the other said, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; divide him.” Then the king answered and said, “Give the living child to the first woman, and by no means put him to death; she is his mother.” And all Israel heard of the judgment that the king had rendered, and they stood in awe of the king, because they perceived that the wisdom of God was in him to do justice.

While the wisdom of God displayed through Solomon in this story is certainly one to behold, I thought it would be interesting to look at this story from another perspective. Indeed, God is just and in due time, justice will be given to His people, but behind it we also see an important lesson—the light that is shed on darkness.  

Picture yourself as a spectator in this debacle as it is unfolding. You’re standing in the king’s courtroom and watching these two women fight over the one baby that is alive. It seems hopeless in figuring out who is the real mother as both of the women adamantly declare that the baby is theirs. How could anyone know whom the baby belonged to since no one was there that night and the baby didn’t look like either of the women yet? Just when all hope seems to be gone and justice seems unobtainable, the king quiets the courtroom with a statement. There is some commotion and you see a soldier getting ready to cut the baby in half. As you turn to look at the two women, you notice one of them crying uncontrollably and the other without much emotion in agreement of what is happening. The king orders everyone to stop and hands the baby to the woman who is crying. The courtroom erupts with gasps and everyone is in awe of the wisdom of God displayed through the king. The courtroom is dismissed and people are left with the wisdom of Solomon and ultimately the wisdom and justice of God.

Beyond the wisdom of Solomon the king, we see an important principle –that nothing done in darkness will be hidden forever. In this case, God gives Solomon the supernatural wisdom to shed light on what was done in the darkness. In the dark of night, the wicked woman stole the baby from another woman and evil looked as if it were going to prevail. But God shed light on the situation through the giving of wisdom to Solomon. Oftentimes, we try to hide our sins and can sometimes use circumstances to try and cover our sins and our wickedness. But even if we might be able to fool most people, we cannot fool God. In our lifetime, we will attempt to cover up many of our sins and hope that the consequences never catch up to us. And it is true that even in this lifetime, some of our sins will not catch up to us (although most of them do). However, we will all stand before God one day and give an account of everything that we have done. On that day, the fullness of God’s wisdom and justice will be like a piercing light that cuts through the darkness of our hearts and we will need to give an account for it.

Do you believe that everything done in darkness will be brought to light? How does that affect the way you choose to walk in obedience to the Word of God? In light of the understanding that we cannot fool God, let us approach this life with much fear and reverence of the holiness of God. May we strive for holiness and walk in the light by the power of His Holy Spirit. May we not grow weary of doing good and trust that in due time, justice will be given to God’s people.    

Prayer: Father, help us to walk in the light and not in darkness. Forgive us for the time we persist in walking in darkness and disregard holiness because we have gotten away with our sins. We ask for Your Holy Spirit to renew and refresh our spirits so that we are once again able to see Your holiness and justice so that we are able to walk before You in the right manner. May You be glorified in our lives. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 24-25

April 8, Friday

UPDATED Today’s AMI Devotional Quiet Time, provided by Christine Li, was first posted on May 28, 2015.  Christine, a graduate of University of Pennsylvania, serves as a deaconess at Remnant Church in Manhattan, New York.  

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Disobedience is Costly”

2 Samuel 20: 4-10

Then the king said to Amasa, “Call the men of Judah together to me within three days, and be here yourself.” 5 So Amasa went to summon Judah, but he delayed beyond the set time that had been appointed him. 6 And David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba the son of Bichri will do us more harm than Absalom. Take your lord’s servants and pursue him, lest he get himself to fortified cities and escape from us.” 7 And there went out after him Joab’s men and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, and all the mighty men. They went out from Jerusalem to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri. 8 When they were at the great stone that is in Gibeon, Amasa came to meet them. Now Joab was wearing a soldier’s garment, and over it was a belt with a sword in its sheath fastened on his thigh, and as he went forward it fell out. 9 And Joab said to Amasa, “Is it well with you, my brother?” And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him. 10 But Amasa did not observe the sword that was in Joab’s hand. So Joab struck him with it in the stomach and spilled his entrails to the ground without striking a second blow, and he died. Then Joab and Abishai his brother pursued Sheba the son of Bichri.

Matthew 25: 24-30

He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, “Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, 25 so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.” 26 But his master answered him, “You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

Prior to this passage, King David has asked Amasa to become the commander of his army, replacing Joab. Shortly afterwards, King David asks his newly-minted general to stir up Judah within three days in response to a new rebellion. However, the allotted time passes, and Amasa has failed to bring the people as requested. From what we know of King David, he was not an unreasonable man, but while it is difficult to know why Amasa could not fulfill the king’s expectations, ex-commander Joab seems to find this failure reprehensible and takes matters into this own hands with Amasa. It didn’t help that Joab was likely brooding over having been demoted on account of Amasa.  Here, he sends a clear message, perhaps under a pretext: disobedience is costly. 

This reminds me of a well-known passage, the parable of the talents. The master, before going away, entrusts his wealth with a number of servants. While some of them put the investment to work, one servant hides the money in a field, doing absolutely nothing in response. When the master returns, he is angered by the squandered opportunity, takes away the investment he entrusted, and throws out the servant! The message is echoed here: disobedience is costly.

Few of us have responsibilities on seemingly grand scales, but our relationship with God is a serious matter. Living in accordance with God’s standards is extremely difficult; although we can pretend that some of our sins are less egregious, Jesus warned us that even sinning in our thoughts is as answerable as committing the crimes (Matthew 5:12, 28). Living in accordance with God’s standards seems near impossible.

However, what drives us to obedience should not be a fear of costly consequences. Because of the cross, our prior offenses are covered over by God’s grace, and the costly penalties of our disobedience have already been paid (which, of course, doesn’t mean that God won’t discipline His children [Heb. 12:5-11]). Now, our motivation has been transformed out of fear into a great love for God and a desire to be made like Him. 

For this reason, let us be devoted to His Word, learning to understand what pleases God and urging one another to seriously live as new creations. Thankfully, we are not left alone in this journey; we have a community of believers to point us to Him, and the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit equips us with the power to live as God calls us to.

Prayer: Father, without Your help, I cannot remain obedient to You. However, although it can seem tempting to live apart from Your standards, I know that fullness of life comes from an obedient life. Help me to abide in You so that I may produce good fruit in keeping with this faith and so that I can spur others on to you.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 23


Lunch Break Study  

Read 1 Corinthians 15:  12-28: Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15 We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

Questions to Consider

1. Why would Paul’s preaching and faith be in vain if Christ has not been raised, and why should people be pitied if Christ has not been raised?

2. What’s another danger of being incorrect about Christ’s resurrection?

3. Because we know that Christ has risen, how should this truth affect our lives?  Are you banking all you have on His resurrection?   

Notes

1. Believers ought to live in this world in a way that would be pitied if Christianity were not real. The end goal is not to have created “nicer people” for this world – the end goal is to have set all of our hopes and bets on an unseen world that we have not taken hold of yet.

2. If Paul and the other believers were wrong about Christ’s resurrection from the dead, then they are guilty of blasphemy when it comes to the nature of God and for teaching others about Him falsely.

3. Christ’s resurrection gives us joy – we are no longer in sin, and death is destroyed. Because we no longer have to be in bondage to sin, we can live freely and give up all things for Him.


Evening Reflection

 As you look back to this day, did you face any decisions that were clearly between pleasing and obeying God or man?  How did you fare?  We are told to count the cost before walking with Christ?  What is that you need to give up in order to obey God more readily?  Ask the Lord for more wisdom and conviction? 

April 7, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional is a reprint of Kate Moon’s blog originally posted on October 22, 2015.  Kate continues to serve the Lord in E. Asia. 

Devotional Thought for this Morning

“The Bride’s Date Time”

Ezra 8:15-17

. . . When I checked among the people and the priests, I found no Levites there. 16 So I summoned . . .  [leaders and men of learning], 17 and . . . I told them what to say to Iddo and his fellow Levites, the temple servants in Kasiphia, so that they might bring attendants to us for the house of our God.”

Ezra 8:32-35

So we arrived in Jerusalem, where we rested three days.  33 On the fourth day, in the house of our God, we weighed out the silver and gold and the sacred articles . . . 35 Then the exiles who had returned from captivity sacrificed burnt offerings to the God of Israel . . . ”

If the church is the Bride of Christ, Sunday worship is the bride’s date time with her bridegroom.

It’s the time when, as a body, the church decides to set aside all other things and focus solely on building her relationship with Him.  Just as each believer builds his or her own special relationship with God through individual Bible reading and prayer, I believe there is a special and unique relationship each believing community builds with God as they all physically come together as a group once a week, hearing the same message together, praying and singing the same songs of adoration together.  The worship service, then, becomes the core of a church’s relationship with God; one could say it is the most important thing that she does.

That people spend time with Him together, as a group, has been important to God from the earliest days of the Israelites’ history with Him as His people.  In today’s passage, we see how central worship was to this community by how much attention it is given throughout the chapter.  Ezra’s entire description of the journey is about everything they needed in order to worship God, whether it was the Levites (without them, how would the sacrifices be made?) or the temple articles and offerings, and how they made it safely from Babylon to Jerusalem.  When they do arrive, after a few days’ rest, the first thing they do is gather at the temple and worship God.  This was the most important thing for them to be able to do.

How precious is our church’s time of corporate worship to me?  If I haven’t been as committed as I should, or if there is another activity that brings a time conflict this week, what decision do I need to make about this today?  How can I prepare my heart, my offering, etc., even today, as I look forward to this weekend’s service?  

Prayer: Lord, what a special example this heart of Ezra is for me today.  Just reading about his preparations and concerns blesses my heart.  Help me to have the same concern and passion for our church’s times of meeting with You.  In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 22


Lunch Break Study 

Read Ezra 8:24-25, 28-29 : Then I set apart twelve of the leading priests . . . and ten of their brothers, 25 and I weighed out to them the offering of silver and gold and the articles . . . 28 I said to them, “You as well as these articles are consecrated to the Lord. The silver and gold are a freewill offering to the Lord, the God of your ancestors. 29 Guard them carefully until you weigh them out in the chambers of the house of the Lord in Jerusalem before the leading priests and the Levites and the family heads of Israel.” 

1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

Questions to Consider

1. What is described as being “consecrated to the Lord” (v. 28)?

2. What did Ezra ask the priests and their brothers to do (v. 29)? 

3. What conclusion can we draw from the answers to the two questions above?  How should we consider those (including ourselves) who serve at the temple so that His people can worship? 

Notes

1. Both material goods (temple articles & offerings) AND people (priests + brothers).

2. Guard the offerings carefully.

3. If material goods were to be guarded carefully because they were set apart for God, all the more the priests should also take care of themselves – not just so that they can protect the offerings but because they themselves are also set apart for God.  As people set apart to serve, we are important and should take care to guard our conditions so that we are able to serve Him and His people well when the time comes.


Evening Reflection

The weekend is just around the corner.  Do I have excitement and anticipation in my heart as I look forward to meeting Him with my brothers and sisters in gathered, corporate worship?

April 6, Wednesday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 14, 2015.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“What Can Go Wrong with Date-Setting for the End of the World?”

Matt. 24:44-50 (NIV)

“So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. [45] Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? [46] It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. [47] I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions. [48] But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ [49] and he then begins to beat his fellow servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. [50] The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of.” 

The church where I became a believer in 1981 was steeped in end-times Bible prophecy.  My fascination with this grew all the more after seeing Christian movies, such as “A Thief in the Night” and “Image of the Beast,” which portrayed a terrifying world following the rapture.  My ears perked up when several respectable pastors predicted the Lord’s coming in 1988.  The fact that the prediction didn’t come true that year hasn’t stopped others from setting additional dates, as evidenced by  Harold Camping in 2011 and, most recently, Pat Robertson who believes that the war in Ukraine is the beginning of the end. 

One consequence of failed date-setting is an increased disinterest in Christ’s coming.  Anticipating this, Peter wrote: “They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised?  Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation’” (2 Pet. 3:4).  I plead guilty to that because I went from passionately teaching the end time prophecy to becoming somewhat unenthused about reading the book of Revelation (always as the last book while reading the Bible in a year).  

The above parable suggests that a pitfall of not taking seriously of Christ’s return is apathy towards fulfilling our responsibilities from God.  The servant in charge of taking care of others became selfish and irresponsible, assuming that the master wouldn’t return any time soon; consequently, instead of being faithful, nothing was denied in the pursuit of pleasure for here and now.  

Ironically, those who take Christ’s return seriously can be just as callous as those who don’t.  For instance, in a mission’s conference organized by a church known for its strong emphasis on end-time prophecy, the speaker chided some in the audience who cheered over a war that just broke out in Russia, believing it to be a fulfillment of a prophecy.  He said, “We should be mindful that people die in a war without knowing Christ.”

Peter asks, “What kind of people ought you to be?” (2 Pet. 3:11).  Regardless of when Christ will actually return, we need to live each day as if he is coming today.  Unlike the irresponsible servant, we should continue being faithful to God’s task; “[we] ought to live holy and godly lives as [we] look forward to the day of God” (3:11).  So, approach today with eagerness to let Christ be known through your faithfulness.   

Prayer: O God, I glorify and praise You this morning for your Son Jesus who, in His first coming, died for the sins of the world so that we might live with You eternally.  Father, help us to rely on the Holy Spirit to keep our focus on the responsibility that you gave us, even as we wait for your second coming. Amen.   

Bible Reading for Today: Acts 21


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Thess. 5:1-8 (ESV): “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. [2] For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. [3] While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. [4] But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. [5] For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. [6] So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. [7] For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. [8] But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.”

John 9:4 (ESV): “We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.”

Question to Consider

1. In what sense (biblical and current) would the Lord’ coming be a surprise to many?

2. Should this day catch us off guard?  If we are found to be unprepared, what does that imply?

3. How should we live in anticipation of his eventual coming?  Hide on a mountain top?

Notes

1. Being creatures of comfort and habit, it doesn’t dawn on people that something cataclysmic can happen, destroying peace and security that they’ve always known.  In our current world, since many are secularists, they simply don’t believe in anything divine and supernatural.  

2. The expression “A thief in the night” is reserved for the unbelievers; Paul tells the believers that that day should not surprise us like a thief since we have been forewarned.   This doesn’t mean we should set a date of His coming,  but to live in the present by faith, love, and in hope. 

3. We are the children of light, which means that instead of withdrawing from the world in anticipation of the world’s end, we “must work the works of him who sent [Jesus] while it is day.”  It calls for engagement and involvement with the world to let Christ be known, particularly among the scoffers.  


Evening Reflection

If you knew for sure that Christ is coming by midnight tomorrow, are there things that you would want to change immediately?  What does that say about your faith right now?  Make changes; be ready.