January 8, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT blog, written by Pastor Mark Chun of Radiance Christian Church in S.F., was originally posted on March 5, 2013.  Mark is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Talbot School of Theology (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Can the Wrath of God Bring Comfort to Us?”

Psalm 21:8-12 (ESV)

Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you. 9 You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear.  The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them.  10 You will destroy their descendants from the earth, and their offspring from among the children of man. 11 Though they plan evil against you, though they devise mischief, they will not succeed. 12 For you will put them to flight; you will aim at their faces with your bows. 

Understandably, most Christians in America are uncomfortable with the idea of God’s wrath.  In our theological grid, there is little room for the justice of God and it seems unloving to talk about God outside of the parameters of His love, mercy, and grace.  

We rarely think that our views of God are purely cultural and don’t realize that these opinions are not shared by much of the world.  Miroslav Volf, who is a theologian at Yale Divinity and eyewitness of the violence in Croatia, talks about the weakness of a God who is unable to exact final vengeance upon his enemies.  If men cannot be certain that God ultimately is just, then we will take justice into our own hands, ensuring that the cycle of violence and war will continue indefinitely.  

In this way, the wrath of God is something to be greatly feared but also something that brings great comfort for those who have suffered for the sake of righteousness.  There is much wisdom in obeying the words of Romans 12:9, “Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath.”  

As you get ready for the day, is there an aspect of God’s character that you haven’t given much thought to?  Spend a few moments thinking about the many different attributes of God and give Him your worship.    

Prayer: God Almighty, I confess that my thoughts of You are often too small and limited in scope.  Help me to see You more clearly and to seek a greater revelation of all that You are.  May I never lose my sense of awe and amazement as I think upon Your loving goodness and moral perfection.  You are truly Lord of my life and God above all.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today:  Genesis 9


Lunch Break Study

Read Matthew 5:39 (ESV): You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

Questions to Consider

  1. In what context were these words spoken? (Matthew 5:38-42)
  2. What Old Testament commandment was Jesus clarifying?  (Exodus 21:24)
  3. Is this proof that all Christians should be pacifists and stand opposed to war?  

Note

  1. Jesus spoke these words in the Sermon on the Mount, which represents the most important collection of the moral teachings of Christ.  It describes the ethics of those who are members of the Kingdom of God.  Properly applied, it has tremendous power to bring about incredible change in our lives and the world we live in. 
  2. Jesus was clarifying and intensifying the rule of lex talionis found in the Old Testament that restricted retribution so that the punishment would fit the crime.  He wanted believers to be above this tit-for-tat retribution that is common to the world and break the cycle of evil actions that break human relationships.  
  3. This command cannot be taken as an absolute rule.  There are clearly times when Christians must resist evil and even use force in certain contexts.   There is a Christian organization in India that forcefully rescues women enslaved in sex trafficking because of the government’s indifference to this evil.  In certain situations like this, righteous anger is needed and appropriate.

Often times, the commands of Christ seem far too difficult to seriously consider.  This is when we realize that the Christian life is not simply hard, it is impossible unless we are continually filled by the Holy Spirit.  


Evening Reflection

Was there a chance to act in kindness towards someone today?  How did you react in negative situations at work, on the commute, and with your family?  Were you mindful of the Gospel in these situations?

January 7, Thursday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional was first posted on December 10, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“‘God’s Thoughts Are Higher Than Ours.’ Really?”

Proverbs 21:30

No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.

George Mueller, the well-known man of faith and director of the Ashley Down orphanage in the late 1800s, recounted an important transitional period in his life. After college, he felt that God was calling him to begin his missionary work in London, but at this time, Germany required all able men to serve in the army. He didn’t want to delay his missionary work, but felt stuck. It was at this time he became very sick to the point that he almost died. While this may have seemed unfortunate, it also rendered him unable to serve in the army. He was now able to begin his work as a missionary. (http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/church-history-for-kids/george-mueller-orphanages-built-by-prayer-11634869.html)

George Mueller’s testimony is filled with stories of miraculous provision of God. While they may seem like fantastic tales of supernatural acts of God, one thing is consistently clear: God will have His way. There are so many ways God surprises us and breaks the paradigm of what our own wisdom says is possible.

Our response to this reality should be twofold: We need to be more humble and to be more trusting. To be humble is to submit our plans in order to grasp and follow God’s plans. To be trusting is to adhere to God’s methodologies in order to fulfill what He calls us to in the way He calls us to. When we grow in humility and trust before the Lord, we will encounter the reality of Romans 8:31 (“If God is for us, who can be against us?”). 

The amazing experiences of faith we see in George Mueller’s life is available to all of us as well. We are called to recognize that God’s thoughts are higher than ours, and to respond in humility and trust.

Is there anything God is calling you to that seems impossible to fulfill?  Today, God is encouraging you to be humble and to trust that God will provide a way to fulfill His calling.

Prayer: Father, grow me in my trust in You. Give me a heart to lay down all my plans before You. I thank You that Your ways and Your thoughts are glorious and higher than mine. Amen

Bible Reading for Today:Genesis 8


Lunch Break Study

Read James 4:13-16: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. 

Questions to Consider

  1. What issue is James pointing to in this text?
  2. Why is boasting (v. 16) evil?
  3. How do we rectify this mentality?

Notes

  1. It is the sin of arrogance and assumption. 
  2. This boasting reflects a life that is not lived in the knowledge of the Lord. It fails to recognize that God is in control.
  3. It begins with the recognition that our life is limited and frail (v. 14). 

Evening Reflection

If you desire greatness in the kingdom of God, it begins with humility and trust in the Lord. What are some areas in which you need to trust God?  Has there been humility in your planning? Let this be a night of reflection and submission. Ask the Lord to reveal His plans and His heart, and align your own plans to His.

January 6, Wednesday

UPDATED Today’s AMI QT Devotional, written by the then (2013) staff of Kairos Christian Church in San Diego, is an updated version of their blog first posted on July 19, 2013.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“How Concerned Are You for the Church?”

Psalm 78:4-7

We will not hide them from their children; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. 5 He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our forefathers to teach their children, 6 so the next generation would know them,  even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. 7 Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

How concerned are you for the Church, that is, for other believers?   Are you concerned for their spiritual well-being?  The psalmist knew that if the next generation wasn’t told of God’s laws and what He had done, they would be in danger of suffering the same fate as his ancestors.  

We live in an individualistic society that promotes selfishness and we’re often too consumed with our own issues that we miss out on the call to bless those around us.  The post Covid-19 world that forced us to be separated from others will worsen this situation, not better.  We’ve lost this sense of community and being responsible for it.  

But, as a church, we are one body and we need to care for one another.  One way of doing that is to tell the next generation who God is, what he has done, and what he calls us to do, so that they’d trust in God, not forgetting his deeds and keeping him commands.  Let’s remember what happened to Israel when they forgot about God; they were punished and exiled.  May this not be the fate of the next generation of believers.

Recall John 20:31 that says, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”  Let’s reflect on who God is and what He has done in our lives, and share this Good News to those around us.

Prayer: Father, thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ, and how you continually reveal yourself to me.  Increase my heart for the body of Christ.  Help me to love the Church as you love the Church.  Fill me with your Spirit that I may be a blessing to your Body by proclaiming who you are and what you’ve done.  Amen

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 7


Lunch Break Study

Read James 3:16-18 (NIV): For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

Questions to Consider

  1. What results when the members of the church are filled with envy and selfish ambitions? 
  2. What are the qualities of the kind of wisdom that comes from heaven?
  3. What harvest do you reap when sowing peace?
  4. Look to the heaven today and ask for the kind of wisdom that James describes that God has for His children. 

Notes

  1. When there is envy and selfish ambitions, there one will find disorder and evil practices of all kinds. Often, when believers strive for a “higher” or more publicly recognized position in the church, they do not realize that their actions may actually create more problems. They may think that they are the solution and that they will help the church to improve, but James declares that self-seeking attitudes invariably produce chaos and disorder within the Body of Christ.
  2. The kind of wisdom from heaven is pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. True wisdom reflects moral purity and courage; it also includes many good works reflective of an even-tempered, well-balanced character. 
  3. The harvest one reaps is righteousness when those who make peace sows in peace. Throughout all of Scripture, the idea of peace centers on the idea of “wholeness.” It’s an idea that is Hebraic, with a meaning that encompasses much more than a mere absence of the disquiet; rather the prime notion is positive, embracing prosperity, contentment, and security. 
  4. Personal response

Evening Reflection

In what tangible ways did you sense that you were conducting your life (business, relationships, ministry, etc.) with wisdom from heaven. Spend some time thanking the Lord for providing you with this wisdom. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, I admit that I struggle deeply with selfishness and jealousy. I look to you and the example of Christ and ask for your heavenly wisdom to fill my heart. Amen.  

January 5, Tuesday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, prepared by Pastor Jason Sato who is currently serving in Japan as a missionary, was first posted on April 30, 2014. Jason is a graduate of University of California, San Diego (BS) and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div.). 

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Fools for Christ”

Galatians 6:11-18 (ESV) 

“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. [12] It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. [13] For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. [14] But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. [15] For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. [16] And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. [17] From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. [18] The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.”

Have you ever encountered a person who seriously and obviously disliked you? 

Of course not! You are a perfectly likeable person! Or at least, that’s what we hope. We might even imagine that being a virtuous, caring Christian ought to result in everyone liking us, or at the very least respecting us. Yet the Apostle Paul makes it clear that following Christ will lead to persecution. 

In Paul’s day, Jewish Christians were being forced out of synagogues, imprisoned, and even killed. A major point of conflict is that Jewish Christians are seen as unclean for fellowshipping with uncircumcised Gentiles. To avoid this charge and its accompanying persecution, some are attempting to force the Gentiles in the Galatian Church to be circumcised (v. 12). In contrast, Paul proudly bears “on [his] body the marks of Jesus.” Why this different view of humiliation and suffering?

The proponents of circumcision are attempting to boast in the flesh (v. 13). While they believe Jesus is the Messiah, they still want to hold onto their old life. They want to maintain their former dignity and security in their communities. While they wanted to be Christians, they also wanted to continue to upstanding, law-abiding Jews. In contrast, Paul boasts only “in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 14). While Paul was a Hebrew of Hebrews once, he was willing to let go of his standing in the world to be fully identified with Christ.

None of us want to look foolish or be disliked. None of us want to be labeled as fanatics or bigots. So how can we overcome the temptation to hide our faith and deny Christ with our silence?

Paul’s opponents are still focused on external matters of circumcision and uncircumcision. But he recognizes that we ultimately need to be new people (v. 15). We won’t suffer willingly for Christ simply because of discipline, knowledge, or guilt. In our heart of hearts, we love ourselves – our safety and our reputations – too much. We need to invite the Spirit of God to transform us into people that love God’s glory and hate anything that detracts from it.  So this new year, strive to die to yourself (your ambition and goal) so that you may have a life that is rooted in God alone. 

Prayer: Father, so often I am more afraid of what others might think than of denying You. Please forgive me for my sin and send Your Holy Spirit that I may have a heart that wants You more than safety or respect. May following in Your footsteps be my joy. Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 6


Lunch Break Study  

Read Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV): “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. [17] And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. [18] And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. [19] Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Questions to Consider

  1. According to v. 17, what were the disciples experiencing following Jesus’ resurrection?
  2. According to v. 18, what is the foundation of the Great Commission?
  3. According to v. 20b, what is our comfort and reward as we obey his command?

Notes

  1. The disciples were experiencing great wonder and hope. They knew Jesus was the Son of God, worthy to be worshiped. But they also were experiencing fear and doubt. They remembered the great opposition and suffering Jesus Himself endured.
  2. The authority of Jesus is the foundation of the Great Commission.  Jesus has authority to send the disciples as He is their Lord. Jesus has overcome sin and death and therefore has authority to save the nations and judge the world. 
  3. Our comfort and reward is that Jesus will be with us. As we witness to others and testify to the goodness of God, we do not go alone but in the power and presence of God.

Evening Reflection

Reflect on your day. What opportunities did you have to bear witness to Christ? Were you tempted to give in to fear? Continue to pray for a new heart that loses all for the sake of knowing Christ.

January 4, Monday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 4, 2014.

Devotional Thought for this Morning

“Are You Secure in Christ?”

Philem. 1:1

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, to Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker.

Who would introduce himself as “a prisoner”?  Is there a social label more stigmatizing than an “ex-con”?  Some Asian parents are known to lie about their wayward children who end up in a juvenile hall.  When asked, they say, “Oh, he is away at a school.”  Frankly, who can blame them?  

Yet, Paul, in his personal letter to Philemon, a man who became a believer through his ministry, identifies himself as “a prisoner of Christ Jesus.”  He does the same when writing to Pastor Timothy, saying, “So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner” (2 Tim. 1:8a).

In no way is that a flattering self-description, especially to the people of the world.  Paul probably reasoned it like this: Since the sinless Christ took his place and paid the penalty of sin that Paul, as a prisoner of sin could never pay, he continues to see himself as a prisoner, not of sin, but of his liberator.   

In that sense, that self-description is no different than that of John the Baptist, who, upon being told that Jesus was baptizing more people than him, said, “He must become greater; I must become less” (Jn. 3:30).  Certainly, both Paul and John demonstrate humility, but it wasn’t for the sake of just being humble; it was to show the greatness of Christ in what he did for humanity and what he can do for each individual.  

So, what is one self-description of yourself (besides “the worst of sinners”), which can show the magnitude of Christ to our unbelieving friends and family members?  Mine is this:  I scored less than 800 on my SAT, and then flunked out of college, but by the grace of God and the strength He gave me, was able to obtain a terminal degree.  That’s a story of redemption and there is only one hero in it: Jesus Christ.  

So, is your security “secure” in Christ enough to present yourself to others in unflattering ways as a way to demonstrate his all-encompassing greatness manifested through his grace?  What keeps you from being secure solely based on Christ’s acceptance of you?  Ask the Lord for insights into your life so as to draw near to him in 2021. 

Prayer: O Father in heaven, I praise You and magnify You this morning.  I know that the desire to impress others may always be there in my flesh, but I also know that my desire for Your name to be exalted is the best way to keep it under control.  So God, please strengthen my resolve to make Your name known and for my security to be firmly rooted in Christ’s unconditional acceptance of me.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 5


Lunch Break Study

Read John 21:19-22: Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!” 20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”  22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 

Questions to Consider

  1. Insecurity can show up at any time.  Here, Peter just had been reinstated by Jesus after denying him three times.  How would you describe Peter’s insecurity? 
  2. What caused Peter’s insecurity?  
  3. What does Jesus’ response to Peter imply?

Notes

  1. Although Jesus reinstated Peter, it is quite understandable if he had wondered whether things were as normal as before when he was a lead disciple.  Seeing John, Peter was emboldened to test it out, to see whether Jesus was as concerned about the future of his friend as himself.  Maybe, Peter hoped to hear something that would make him believe that Jesus considered him more special than John. 
  2. It wasn’t enough that Jesus accepted and reinstated him unconditionally; in addition, Peter had to be more special to Christ than others were to him.  When we covet something more than Christ himself, that’s showing that we aren’t properly handling our insecurity. 
  3. In short, he said to Peter, “It is none of your business as to what I am going to do for John; stop focusing on other things besides following me to glorify the Father.”

Evening Reflection

How was your day?  Did anything happen that caused you to feel insecure?  How did you handle it?  Write about it and a prayer thereafter asking God to help you better handle it the next time when it happens (like tomorrow). 

January 3, Sunday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Barry Kang who heads Symphony Church in Boston, is an updated version of his blog first posted on March 1, 2014.  He is a graduate of Stanford University (BA), Fuller Theological Seminary (M.Div.) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (D.Min.). 

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“A Real Hope Found in John’s Transformation” 

Mark 3:17

James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”) . . .

Church Father Jerome tells us that when the aged apostle John became so weak that he could no longer preach, he used to be carried into the congregation at Ephesus and content himself with a word of exhortation: “Little children,” he would always say, “love one another.” And when his hearers grew tired of this message and asked him why he so frequently repeated it, he responded, “Because it is the Lord’s command, and if this is all you do, it is enough.”  When we read John’s Gospel or his letters, this story rings true.


Yet love did not always characterize John’s life.  Jesus named John and his brother James,  “Boanerges,” that is, Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17), but what did Jesus mean by this?  We get a hint in Luke 9:51-56: As Jesus and his companions were traveling through Samaria, and they were turned away by the Samaritan village, James and John, without blinking an eye, offered to pray down fire on them (Luke 9:51-56).  Jesus responded by rebuking them, and then took his men to another village, seeing that they were still not ready to proclaim the message of God’s love for the world. Another time, their mother came to Jesus asking that her sons be exclusively seated at Jesus’ left and right when his kingdom would come (Matthew 20).  Upon hearing this, an argument broke out among the disciples!  During his time with Jesus, John did not epitomize the message of loving one another.

Yet, many years later, John would become known as the Apostle of Love, but how did this happen? Was it merely old age which softened John?  Perhaps, but my guess is that the change came by being in the presence of Jesus for all those years.  Our motivation to love always comes as we are loved by Jesus. As for John, he experienced Jesus’ love, saw how Jesus loved, and most profoundly, he was a witness to Jesus’ death on the cross. 

How are you doing with loving others in the church?  If you struggle with loving others, I would tell you that you have a very real hope for transformation.  John’s life tells us that it is possible.  Just remember, transformation and maturity doesn’t automatically happen to us as we get older, but as we follow the cross-carrying Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, we must change; we cannot afford to continue to live the way we have been for years.  Help us to change like John changed.  Help us to dwell in the presence of Christ daily and imitate the Lord through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 


Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 4

January 2, Saturday

REPOST Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought, written by Pastor Sam Lee who leads Catalyst Agape Church in Northern New Jersey, was first posted on October 21, 2013.  He is a graduate of University of Wisconsin (BA) and Biblical Theological Seminary (M.Div.).

Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend

“God’s Word, Not in Theory but in Practice”

Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart

The Word of God is not just a concept to understand or information to memorize. It is alive and active and has the power to transform hearts and lives. This power is manifested when we put our energy into walking out or putting the truths and revelations into practice. 

I have read many books that inspired me concerning the biblical revelations on love. Also, I have listened to many sermons and teachings that convicted me about what the Bible says about helping the poor. I have taught Bible studies about the importance of forgiving those who hurt you. But I will not encounter the power of those truths unless I walk it out in my life. When biblical revelations become just a concept to understand without practice, the power of the Word of God will become more and more diminished. 

For instance, when we first hear a sermon on helping the poor, we might wholeheartedly agree, but if not put into practice, the enemy will come and snatch that seed from our heart. We have to hear the truth again, and we agree, but if it remains just a concept, again the power of the word will be stolen from our heart.  After awhile, if this truth is continuously ignored and not put into practice, it will become normal Christianity to live in high level of theory, and experience low level of encounter and power. 

We might, however, be able to teach the gospel, but unable to demonstrate the power of the gospel in our lives.  Jesus taught the gospel, and He also demonstrated the gospel, showing the gospel has power.  So, in this new year, make it your goal to be a doer of God’s word, not just a hearer!

Prayer: Heavenly Father, empower me and motivate me through the Holy Spirit to be a doer of Your eternal word.  Help me to put into practice all your truths that I know all too well.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 2-3

January 1, Friday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor), was first posted on January 1, 2014.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Staying Close to Jesus”

1 John 1:5

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.

Of all the numerous New Year’s Eve services I have ever attended, I do remember the very first one in 1981, about seven months after I became a believer.  Actually, the only thing I remember is Isaiah 60:1-2 that someone read during the time of testimony: “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.  See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you.”  The interpretation of this passage, in the hands of some theologians, can get polemic (i.e., “Millennium Kingdom”), but for ordinary folks like us, it gives what we desperately need: HOPE!  

So, what can typically happen to an ordinary person in the course of any given year?  Well in 1987, I got married!  Had I read this passage that year, perhaps it wouldn’t have meant as much (too happy).  But by the end of 1990 or 1999, it meant a lot: in 1990, because I was so exhausted from driving a shuttle van to make a living while pastoring a church that was going nowhere; in 1999, because that church, which eventually went somewhere, didn’t go far enough.  Later, having left that congregation and feeling like a failure, I was wondering about my future as a minister as well as a father to three young children.  

Many things happened thereafter, but in due time I came to really see with my heart what I always knew in my head: That which all the lights in the Old Testament had foreshadowed (Heb. 10:1) has indeed come and is always with me.  Said Jesus, “I am the light of the world” (Jn. 9:5b) and “with you always” (Matt. 28:20b).  I experienced that Christ, like a lighthouse to the lost ship at sea, drives out darkness of hopelessness and despair from our lives.  It is both instantaneous (Jn. 8:32) and a process (Phil. 1:6); either way we need to stay close to him.  And having a meaningful and consistent time with the Lord is part of that process.  So, as we begin the New Year, let’s make daily spending meaningful and unhurried time with the Lord our life’s top priority. 

Prayer: Lord, as I start the New Year today, constantly remind me to stay close to your heart.  Help me to stay so close to you that I can hear your heart beat.   Dear Father, whenever a momentary darkness dampens my hope, especially because things do not go as I planned, remind me to center my life and plans from the standpoint of eternity.  May this year be a year in which my life truly glorifies you.  Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 1


Lunch Break Study

Read 1 Jn. 1:5-9:This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Positionally, the believers are always in the light but our actual life can get pretty dark sometimes.  What causes temporary spiritual darkness in our lives that sometimes lasts too long?
  2. Why do we, from time to time, act like we are walking in the light when, in fact, we are in darkness, much like the Pharisees who claimed to see but were blind spiritually (Jn. 9:39-41)?
  3. What is one sure and fast way to rid ourselves of temporary darkness so that we tangibly experience “righteousness (e.g., a clear conscience), peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17b)?   

Notes

  1. In short, it is sin (in actions and attitude), which, when left unrepented for awhile, hardens the heart.  Once that happens, other more sinful things that we couldn’t fathom committing before become quite easy to do.      
  2. Among several reasons, one is this: Looking good before the people.  Of the Pharisees who did many outwardly good things, Jesus said, “Everything they do is done for men to see” (Matt. 23:5a).  That leads to hypocrisy, which is leading a double life.   In other words, we care more about what men think than what God thinks.
  3. An honest evaluation of ourselves followed by an authentic confession of our sins that ought to lead to a genuine repentance; that is, a concrete plan not to commit the same sin (Lk. 19:8).

Evening Reflection

As the first day of 2021 is about to be history, evaluate how the day went: Did someone say or do something that made you feel sad or mad?  Stay close to Christ and hear his heartbeat; what is he saying to you?

December 31, Thursday

REPOST Today’s devotional, provided by an anonymous writer, was originally posted on December 31, 2013.

Devotional Thought for This Morning

Psalm 150

Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! 2 Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! 3 Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! 4 Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! 5 Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
6 Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

Psalm 150 gives two reasons why we praise God; we praise him because of “his mighty deeds” and “his excellent greatness.”

Let’s consider the first reason. In the Bible, a pattern of worship is often seen—when God performs some wondrous, glorious act of deliverance for his people, the only proper response seems to be fervent worship. For example, when God parts the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross and escape from Pharaoh’s army, Moses breaks out into an exuberant song of worship: “Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11). Another example of this pattern can be found in the birth story of Christ. When shepherds see the infant Jesus, knowing that they are witnessing the coming of the Savior, they leave the stable “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Luke 2:19). For Christians today, the ultimate act of God’s deliverance is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to save us from wickedness, suffering, and sin. This is why we praise God—because of his mighty deed of remembering us and rescuing us from all that is painful and evil in exchange for eternal life. 

The second reason Psalm 150 gives for praising God is “his excellent greatness.” We have already seen that God is a completely perfect being worthy of reverent adoration and praise. In fact, it seems difficult to imagine anyone other than God receiving worship. For example, think about some people greatly esteemed in our global community. People like Nelson Mandela and Malala Yousafzai are surely heroes we might respect, but would they be worthy of worship? Such a response would strike us as bizarre, even crazy—I can certainly admire Mandela and Malala for certain acts of altruism and bravery in their lives, but I surely wouldn’t fall down and worship them and assemble praise services to venerate them for years to come! But that sort of response is exactly what God deserves: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and praise!” (Revelation 4:11). God, and God alone, is worthy of worship. 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, in new year help me to become a true and passionate worshiper of You.  Amen. 

Bible Reading for Today: Micah 7


Lunch Break Study

Read Habakkuk 3:17-8: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the LORD, is my strength.”  

Psalm 77: 1, 4, 11, 19-20: “I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your wonders of old. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” 

Questions to Consider

  1. What is astounding about the faith of Habakkuk as he anticipates the coming of the Babylonians who will destroy everything in sight as part of God’s judgment against Israel?
  2. In light of how we usually respond to trials in life, what distinguishes the faith of this “tormented” Psalmist?  

Notes

  1. It’s easy to praise God when one thinks about his wondrous creation, perfect character, and mighty deeds as told in the Bible. But it can be so hard to praise God when one reflects on the suffering in one’s life and the seemingly hopeless reality of pain that fills the earth. The first passage concerns this very issue: the prophet Habakkuk was living during a time where he saw so much suffering that God could stop but chose not to: “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?” (Habakkuk 1:13). But Habakkuk eventually chooses to trust that God knows what he is doing, that God has sufficient reasons for permitting what happens in the world. Such faith and worship in the face of suffering is unbelievably difficult, but it is the path God’s people must take. 
  2. The second passage concerns a time when the writer was undergoing a deeply difficult trial.  But his heart is strengthened upon remembering how God took a hopeless situation of seeming defeat at the Red Sea into a great deliverance of freedom. Such is our hope for today. In this life, we will experience all sorts of pain and despair: we will fail, be confused, have heartbreak, suffer depression, lose loved ones, feel utterly crushed; this is what it’s like living in a fallen world. It’s supposed to be hard. But we remember that Jesus Christ has delivered us from all this! We remember that there are better days ahead, a future with the God we worship. What will ultimately deliver us from sin and suffering? Sophisticated behavioral therapy?  Better science and technology? More friends? Romance? More sex and drugs? “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Psalm 20:7).  

Evening Reflection

As a new year comes, what do you look forward to? What do you dread? 

Along with the times of joy and happiness we eagerly anticipate, there are also going to be times of great sadness and terrible pain. But God is with us! We worship a God who has already ensured that we will have an eternally good future with him forever. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me . . . Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23: 4, 6). With Jesus by our side, we continue on our earthly journey to the gates of the city of God. Praise the Lord!

December 30, Wednesday

REPOST Today’s AMI QT Devotional, provided by Pastor David Kwon who heads Journey Community Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, was first posted on December 22, 2014.  He is a graduate of Drexel University (BS) and Columbia International University (M.Div.).

Devotional Thought for This Morning

“Pursuit of True Happiness”

Proverbs 28:14

Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.

Every human being longs for true happiness.  The French theologian Blaise Pascal said it best: “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even those who hang themselves.”

Since the word “blessed” in the Bible is best translated as “happy,” this proverb is saying, happy is the one who fears the Lord.  Most people think that those who are happy never fear; but the word “fear” refers to reverence, not of bondage; of caution, not of distrust; of diligence, not of despondency” (ref. Bruce Waltke).   Thus, happy is the one who always keeps up in his mind in holy awe and reverence of God, His glory, goodness, and sovereignty. On the other hand, this proverb describes one who does not fear the Lord as someone who has a hardened heart, fixed in unbelief, and often in defiance against God.  In short, godly fear and true happiness are inseparable.  

Having a healthy fear of God starts with revering Him; thus, start this morning in worship, giving him the praise and honor that is due Him.  Pray that Christ would be exalted in all the areas of your life today.

Prayer:  Lord, thank You that You are the one who brings true happiness.  Help me this day to worship and fear You.  Amen.  

Bible Reading for Today:  Micah 6


Lunch Study Break

Read Ephesians 1:3-6: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is Paul reminding the believers in the Ephesian church?
  2. What are the reasons Paul gives as to why we are “blessed” in Christ?
  3. How should these truths impact our lives daily?

Notes

  1. We have every spiritual blessing in Christ – we are adopted as God’s children and we have power to overcome sin.  It means our identity is secure in Christ, which frees us from all other identities we often pursue.  
  2. God chose and loved us before the foundation of the world.  What an amazing truth! If we could remember this truth, it would give us tremendous freedom and encouragement.
  3. We do not have to live in fear or pursue other worldly identities or possessions, which promise temporary happiness.  We have been adopted through Jesus as His child, which gives us true satisfaction.  

Evening Reflection

We have been meditating on the idea of “blessedness” today.  Every day, we need to be reminded of this great promise that God has blessed us through his Son Jesus.  Spend time thanking the Lord for His unending love for us.