Daily Devotional 6-12-20

A Parting Prayer 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

The Lord bless you and keep you; The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you; The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.
Number 6:24-26

The wise teacher said, “there is time for everything,” (Eccl. 3:1); including a season of settlement, and one of transition. The above scripture is a prayer of blessing that I share with you as I conclude my service among you and transition to another context.

This prayer was a prescription from God for Aaron to bless the Israelites. It’s a six part blessing:

The Lord bless you: Blessing of God’s goodness and sustenance.

The Lord keep you: Blessing of divine protection and security.

The Lord make his face shine on you: Blessings of divine favor.

The Lord be gracious to you: Blessing of lovingkindness and gift.

The Lord life up his countenance on you: Blessing of divine approval.

The Lord give you peace: Blessing of the Shalom of God.  

From the depth of my heart I pray these blessings on you, your family, your children, and your children’s children.

Thank you, all, for receiving and loving me as your pastor for the past three years. I have enjoyed and learned a lot from you.

I would also like to inform you that this ministry of daily devotion would be paused for a while, and you would be notified of a restart date. 

Daily Devotional 6-11-20

The Long and Short of It, Part II
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Here is my final conclusion: fear God and obey his commandments, for this is the entire duty of man.  Ecclesiastes 12:13

I know pets have special place in our lives, especially dogs. We love them and we treat them well. We train our dogs so that we are able to communicate with them to the extent of their capability. We are excited when our dogs obey us. We get frustrated when they don’t.  Sometimes we even send them to obedience school. Yes, obedience school for dogs!

Obedience is so crucial in every relationship. All healthy relationships come with spoken and unspoken values and rules. Every home has rules, not just for kids, but for adults as well. Individuals have their personal rules they obey. 

Love commands obedience.

It’s not easy to walk in healthy love because love is not lawless. Sometimes, you want to have your own way, but love requires you to consider God and the people around you. Jesus’ life is one of complete obedience to His Father. In fact, we are who we are in Christ because of His obedience. Talking about Jesus, Paul writes, “he humbled himself by being fully obedient to God, even when that caused his death—death on a cross,” (Philippians 2:8). We cannot separate Jesus’ love from his obedience to the Father. The only way He proved His love was to obey his Father to the extent of dying on the cross. 

The truest test of love is obedience.

For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does, (John 5:20). Jesus did not win the Father’s love with His obedience. Instead, His obedience was a responds to the Father’s love.  The cross, viewed from this perspective, is a symbol of Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s love.  Jesus feared (respected) the Father so much that He would do anything asked of Him. 

He calls us, too, into a life of obedience. We are not obeying in order to earn a favor from God.  Instead we show our respect and love for the Father through our obedience. Obedience is central to our relationship with Christ. We prove His lordship over our lives in our obedience.

The long and short of the Christian life: Love God through obedience. Then, you will love others.  

PRAYER: Grant me the grace not to be my own god, but to respond to your love with obedience.

Daily Devotional 6-10-20

The Long and Short of It, Part I
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Here is my final conclusion: fear God and obey his commandments, for this is the entire duty of man.  Ecclesiastes 12:13

I started seminary with another student from Ghana, who came to pursue his doctoral studies.  He had tons of books to read and lots of assignments to write. Of course, such volume of work was expected at that level of graduate studies. He set high expectations for himself and would spend sleepless nights reading all pages of his textbooks. But nature caught up with him. One night, during one of his studying times, he had severe headache and was taken to the emergency room. His blood pressure had gone through the roof. One of the professors visited with him at the hospital and told him not to read every single page of the assigned readings. He told him to read the introduction, first two chapters, and the conclusion of the books. The professor told him, “It’s all in the conclusion!”

King Solomon talked extensively about the futility and fallacy of life lived in pursuit of sin and pleasures. He spoke on other themes as well, but his concluding words capture my imagination.  He was blessed by God in wisdom, discernment, and understanding. He had much wealth and walked away from the ordinances of God because his heart was turned to other gods. In his backslidden state, Solomon teaches that the fear of God and obedience to God’s commandments are the duties of every Christian. 

Fear has a strong negative connotation. Unfortunately we usually import that negative meaning into Christian conversations. However, the fear of the Lord is a healthy and required virtue if we desire to walk with God. Fear, in this sense, is reverential. It communicates respect and awe to a loving God. It helps us to have the right relationship with Him, and live a life that represents that relationship. It does not drive us away from God; instead, it invites us into the arms of a loving Father. 

This kind of fear says, “God loves you so much that you don’t have to betray His love by living waywardly.” It makes us see the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross so that we live in humble submission to Him. 

The long and short of the Christian life: respect God, and submit to His love in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.  

PRAYER: May I live a life which does not take you for granted.  In Jesus’ name. Amen.  

Daily Devotional 6-2-20

Speaking God II  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, John 10:27

Many of Jesus’ teachings included agricultural metaphors and imagery that made His audience appreciate the word because they could relate to it. Somebody once jokingly thought Jesus’ comparison of the Christian to sheep was not really the best. This farmer, who has sheep, knows that they aren’t very smart or intelligent. This is very true, but humility is the way of life for the sheep. With humility being the mother of all virtues, it feels right when the Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, inspires Christians to be sheep-like.

Sheep have the ability to recognize the voice of their master. In the first century Palestine culture, different shepherds had a common pen which housed a good number of sheep. In the evening, each shepherd would drive their sheep into the pen, so that there would be different sheep in the same pen belonging to different shepherds. When morning comes, each shepherd would stand by the gate of the pen and call out his sheep. They did not have a complex mechanism to sort out which sheep belonged to which shepherd; it was a simple call and response method. The sheep knew the distinct voice of their shepherd, and they would follow only the voice they knew.

God speaks and His followers will do well to know His voice so they can follow Him. The primary way by which God speaks to us is scripture. It reveals the mind, will, character, and nature of God to us. God is consistent. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit speak the same language; they don’t contradict each other. Listen to Jesus, “For these are not my own ideas, but I have told you what the Father said to tell you,” (John 12:49). Concerning the Holy Spirit, Jesus said, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you, (John 14:26). So, Jesus spoke only what the Father told Him. The Holy Spirit reminds us of what Jesus spoke. Do you see the consistency? Scripture is the document of God’s word to us. That’s why I trust and preach it with all conviction. 

Whenever you read the Bible you hear God’s voice. There is always a message in the word. And you have to ask the Holy Spirit to show you the message in the scripture you read. And, you must do well to obey it. So, you see, God has been speaking to you all these while. You want to be attentive, listen, and follow.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me to approach the scripture with a childlike heart, that I may be shaped and transformed by your word. Amen.

Daily Devotional 6-1-20

Speaking God 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4

This text is filled with imagery. You can imagine the scene in the upper room. This was God’s script being staged or acted by Him. Every detail is important because they communicate something about God to us. The many signs communicate the nature and work of the Holy Spirit to Christians.

Among the many signs, tongues of fire settled on each of the people who had gathered in the upper room. But, have you wondered why tongues of fire? Let’s explore this a little deeper. The natural human tongue has some uses; among them is communication. Tongues help use to make different sounds, thus, enabling us to communicate in our interactions. Interpersonal relationships require verbal communication, which is fundamental to our lives and relationships. Before we learn to write, we learn to speak. People talk.

The Holy Spirit is a person, and He came to indwell us, having relationship with us. The tongue of fire that settled on the apostles is a sign that God the Holy Spirit would speak with His people.  He is a speaking God. The Psalmist speaking of idols said, “They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see,” (Psalm 115:5). The Holy Spirit is a speaking God. He is not like an idol that cannot speak, He is a Person. He is not an object, not a force.  He is not an “it.” Just like Jesus has personality, so has the Holy Spirit. 

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, (John 10:27). God the Son spoke to His disciples, and God the Holy Spirit speaks to us. You can hear His voice on daily basis.  You can commune with Him through daily communication, thereby growing in your relationship with Him. You may ask: how could someone speak with an invisible Person? We will discover tomorrow.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the grace to hear your voice that brings peace and joy.

Daily Devotional 5-28-20

Power to be Witnesses II
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.  Acts 1:8

Deep down in the hearts of people there is the desire for some level of power. It feels good to be capable and not be completely dependent on others for your wellbeing. It feels wonderful to have all it takes to accomplish a task. Power is wonderful but it can also corrupt. Some people use their power to bully, intimidate, trample down, and destroy others.

The disciples were about to receive power beyond their imagination. They’ve been weaklings for some time. They’ve been intimidated and they’ve demonstrated lack of faith and inability to understand some of Jesus’ parables, but the situation was about to change.  The power of the Holy Spirit was going to transform these disciples into a power house for the kingdom of God. 

God’s power has purpose attached to it. 

The disciples would receive power to become witnesses of Christ. They would employ God’s power for the service of the Lord, not for themselves. They would be good stewards of the power of the Holy Spirit. The power would be employed for God’s kingdom purposes, not to build their own kingdoms and empires. With the power of the Holy Spirit they would stand before civil and religious authorities to declare the gospel; they would cross boundaries and barriers for the sake of the gospel; they would heal the sick and raise the dead; they would endure persecutions, yet remain true to their Savior. 

May we be reminded, as Christians, to set an example of the right use of power to advance God’s kingdom on earth and for the flourishing of all lives. In a world filled with prejudice, hate, racism, etc., may we employ the Holy Spirit’s power to write a better narrative of showing God’s love to all people, irrespective of their ethnic, economic and educational background. May we preach the gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit through our words and actions.

PRAYER: Come, Holy Spirit, and pour afresh your power on me. Amen.  

Daily Devotional 5-27-20

Power to be Witnesses I  5/27/20
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. Acts 1:8

The disciples have been mentored and coached by their master. They’ve been taught about prayer, preaching, etc.  But, they still were not qualified for the work of ministry. They needed the main qualification─the Holy Spirit. Many stories of challenges and celebration awaited them. Therefore, Jesus told them to wait for the Holy Spirit. 

The identity of the Church is not derived from the people. It is the presence of Christ, through the Holy Spirit, who gives substance and identity to the Church. After all, it is His body. The Church is the people and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their midst. To be a living Church in a dying world requires the Holy Spirit.  

It is the Holy Spirit who empowers us to become witness of Christ in our world. How was it possible for the unschooled men and women to start a movement? How did the gospel of Jesus spread across boundaries and barriers? How did the Church survive and even flourished in the face of persecution? The power and presence of the Holy Spirit!  

How can we be witnesses of Jesus Christ in our families, community, and world? It is the presence of the Holy Spirit who makes the difference. He comes to endow us with grace to accomplish the Christian life.

PRAYER: So, come, Holy Spirit, and fill me up with your grace to be your witness.

Daily Devotional 5-26-20

Preparing for the Promise
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

They were at the Mount of Olives when this happened, so now they walked the half mile back to Jerusalem and held a prayer meeting in an upstairs room of the house where they were staying. Acts 1:12-13

One of the common narratives in the life of the disciples during the trial, crucifixion and death of Jesus was fear. For this religious minority group, who felt out of touch with their culture and society, hiding behind closed doors became a norm for them. Their world was shaken! They had nowhere to go. They were forced to take shelter and security in seclusion. The fear of not knowing what to do next, and the uncertainty of their safety with their Master being gone, induced fear in them. Hence, they hid in rooms. 

But on this occasion, they had gathered in the upper room not because of fear but faith. They had seen Jesus ascended to heaven. His ascension was going to pave way for the promise of the Holy Spirit to be fulfilled. The disciples transitioned from fear to faith as they anticipated the promise. Fear had its toll on them, but did not conclude their story. Their faith drew them together into prayer meetings in the upper room for the several days. They prepared their hearts for reception. I believe they prayed with all kinds of prayer. They prayed corporately, individually, sang hymns, etc. And, I strongly believe they examined their hearts as well. 

We, also, like the disciples have had a fair share of fear and worry in these days. We’ve self-quarantined for safety reasons and some are still living in fear and anxiety. But, I bring a word of encouragement this morning: we can turn our fear into faith, just like the disciples. I invite you to focus on the promises and character of God. The disciples could not wait for the promise with fear in the heart. 

Next Sunday, churches around the world will celebrate Pentecost. This is not just a celebration, but an event to embrace the Holy Spirit in fresh ways. Will you make your heart ready? Will you examine your soul, and ask the Lord to take away anything that stands in the way? What will it take for you to receive the power and love of God through the Holy Spirit again?

PRAYER: Help me, Lord, to set my heart on you, as I prepare to receive your power and love through the Holy Spirit.     

Daily Devotional 5-25-20

Preparing to Meet God 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Then he said to Moses, “I am going to come to you in the form of a dark cloud, so that the people themselves can hear me when I talk with you, and then they will always believe you. Go down now and see that the people are ready for my visit. Sanctify them today and tomorrow, and have them wash their clothes. Exodus 19:10-12

What do baby gender-reveal parties, baby showers, Christmas shopping, and wedding rehearsals have in common? They are preparations. We shop for Christmas because that event means a lot to us. Churches hang greens and other decorations to set the atmosphere for the celebration. Prospective couples go through a lot of preparation for the special day in their life. Athletes prepare for months before they run in competitions. Today, people are making preparations for the future. Churches are preparing to reopen with specific practices in mind. 

The one who fails to prepare ahead prepares to fail.

The Israelites crossed the Red Sea and were finally free from the bondage. But, they had never met the God who had offered them freedom. So, God decided to––for the first time––meet His people. This was going to be a big event. The Israelites were going to have the privilege to meet their God. But, God would not just show up; therefore, He asked Moses to prepare Israel for the divine visitation. Specifically, God asked them to consecrate themselves and wash their clothes. Wow, God wasn’t going to entertain any dirty and unkept clothes in His presence.

This story has spiritual significance for us. We are about to celebrate Pentecost, the day when the Church was born by the coming of the Holy Spirit to the believers. The apostles and others had to prepare themselves in the upper room before the Holy Spirit came. Today’s Christian, likewise, is invited to prepare to meet God. Through introspection, the Spirit brings to the fore the things hidden that slow down our spiritual progress. He reveals the layers of sin in our lives so that we may repent and seek His forgiveness and healing. 

A call to prepare to meet God is a call to consecration.  

“God is light and in Him, there is no darkness at all,” (1 John 1:5b).  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness,” (1 John 1:9). 

PRAYER: Help us consecrate ourselves as we relive the coming of the Holy Spirit into our lives. Amen!