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Daily Devotional 10-15-19

Redeeming the Time 
By Rev.Emmanuel Afful

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” Ephesians 5:15-17

Who buys expensive pieces of jewelry and lays them around the bedroom, and does not keep it in a safer place? Who buys a very expensive car and does not ensure proper maintenance? Who buys a beautiful and expensive mansion and does not keep it up to date with all the maintenance?  Even, with kids, when they get something they really value they hold it so dear and protect it.  They would usually have a special place to keep it. I remember doing this when I was a kid.

In our text, Paul uses an important word— redeeming—that opens up the understanding of what he was communicating to the church in Ephesus. In the original language, to redeem means to “buy up”or “buy up for oneself, for one’s use.” When we import this meaning into the text, it would read like, “buy the time because the days are evil.” 

What does this mean? Redeeming the time simply means to make wise and sacred use of every opportunity for doing good; seizing every opportunity to advance in your relationship with God and others; taking advantage of every opportunity to make yourself available to God in prayer, study, service, worship, good works, etc. Paul says this is important because the days we live in are evil. And, if we fail to buy the time, evil will take advantage of us. Buying the time makes us discerning, wise in our thoughts, and careful in our actions so that all that we think or do honor God. Again, Paul says when we redeem the time, we get to know what the will of God is.  This means redeeming the time would require holding the word of God dear to their heart because the scripture help us to discern the will of God in matters pertaining to life and godliness.

Friends, we can escape falling prey to the evils of our day; we can triumph in the midst of uncertainties; we can thrive in the midst of scarcity; we can grow spiritually when the environment and surrounding culture becomes hostile to spiritual vitality, if we will treasure and treat every opportunity and time to honor God. 

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the spirit of wisdom that I may honor you with every opportunity and time.

Daily Devotional 10-14-19

Thanksgiving for Protection 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“If the Lord had not been on our side—let Israel say…Praise be to the Lord, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. We have escaped like a bird from the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 124:1, 6-8

David voiced praises to God for not allowing the pagan nations that surrounded Israel to defeat and assimilate God’s people. Throughout the course of Israel’s history, she had been surrounded by hosts of enemies including but not limited to the Philistines, Edomites, Canaanites, Amorites, Assyrians, Babylonians, etc. Not only did she fight in her journey in the wilderness to Canaan, but also when she got to the promise land. Some of her enemies were better equipped, cruel, cunning, and more numerous. Most of these enemies wanted to wipe Israel off the globe. Yet God kept His promise to Israel. Her solace and refuge were only in her covenant-keeping God. Israel has not gone into extinction because of God’s presence in her midst. In this song of Psalm 124, David recognizes that Isreal’s preservation and sustenance have been from God, and not herself. He gives all the credit to God. 

Christians are surrounded by a host of enemies: Satan (the archenemy of your soul), the world, and the self. All these are trying hard to undo and take our faith in Christ down. And to steal, kill, and destroy the life God had given us. Do you sometimes feel like you are living in a world that is hostile to your faith? The news content, entertainment, and politics are all pointing to the fact that authentic Christian faith is being surrounded by hosts of enemies.  

But, we have an assurance in God. “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31). In Jesus’ high priestly prayer, he emphasized the protection of the disciples from the evil one (John 17:15). Just as God protected the Israelites from her enemies, so has He promised to protect us.  You don’t have to live in fear. Enemies may rage, plan, and scheme to cause fear and panic in the Christian community, but God has our back. He’s been with us all the while and He will never forsake us. So, let us join David in praising God for His past, present, and future protections.

PRAYER: I praise you, God, for being my defense against the onslaught attack of Satan. I praise you that in you, my life, family, and friends are secured.

Daily Devotional 10-11-19

Run to Win 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown… But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” 1Corinthians 9:24-27

I have been enjoying Doha 2019, a world athletic competition, in the capital of Qatar. While the crowd cheer on outstanding athletes, those athletes celebrate even more. They go electric with joy and happiness in realizing their efforts have paid off. You can imagine an athlete who won a medal saying, “Yes, I made it!” What makes winning so delightful is the long hours of preparation for the competition. They disciplined themselves so they could be prepared for the race.

Paul uses the metaphor of running a race to describe the Christian life and derives from this metaphor the concept of discipline.  

The Christian life is one of discipline. The grace of God does not offer a license to live any way we want. In fact, a healthy and pure understanding of grace demonstrates that it enables us to live godly lives in the world. It is the grace of God that helps us make choices that are separated and distinct from this world. Being disciplined is not self-righteousness or legalistic. Christians discipline themselves in response to God’s love, not to earn it. They desire to honor God with their lives and this requires discipline. John Piper says, “Paul’s running did not nullify the purpose of grace; it verified the power of grace.”

Therefore, let us live right; bearing in mind that our earthly choices have eternal consequences.  Let us run the spiritual race of godliness and of our salvation in Christ. Let us choose wisely, discern correctly, and walk worthy of our calling as a people set apart by God for His glory.  Christ Jesus exemplified to us that it is possible, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to honor God with our lives. 

We live disciplined lives not to obtain eternal life; our disciplined life is a proof that we have eternal life.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, help me to appropriate your grace to run well, making the right choices and walking worthy of the upward prize of eternal life.

Daily Devotional 10-10-19

How to Deal with Offense
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” Matthew 11:6

If you have lived life long enough, I am sure you would agree with me that life does not always happen as planned. You get to experience the ebb and flow of life. One day you are up and the next day you find yourself down. Today, you are on the mountain top, tomorrow is all a valley affair. One of my favorite preachers puts it like this: “someday it is chicken, somedays it is feathers.” You cannot prevent pain, hurt, being upset, being snubbed, etc., but you can choose how to respond to these things, or even what to do with them.

Our text today is a response Jesus gave to the disciples of John the Baptist to be given to him in prison. John felt offended that Jesus had not done anything about his imprisonment, and instead went about freeing others from all manner of predicaments. If John the Baptist, a prophet and a forerunner of Jesus, could be offended because of Christ, then we ought to be on the lookout, lest bitterness grows in our heart because of Christ.

Jesus’ response indicates that: 1) Christian suffering is real and, 2) Jesus may not respond to you as you anticipated. Admittedly, your faith in Christ does not negate the challenges of life. In fact, when you are a child of God, you will suffer for Christ’s sake. There will be times you may feel offended in Christ because He may not show up or respond the way you expected. Many people have forsaken Christ and left the faith because He did not “meet” their expectations. 

So, how do we handle offense because of Christ?

  1. Recognize that suffering because of Christ is part of the journey (Philippians 1:29).
  2. Recognize that Jesus may not respond according to your plan. He will always choose the best path for you.
  3. Recognize that suffering, when it comes, can be used by God to grow us (Romans 8:28).
  4. Do not carry your offense on others.
  5. Talk to God about your offense. It is okay to do so! This will bring healing to your soul.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me guard my heart against bitterness when Christ does not respond to me in the ways I anticipated.

Daily Devotional 10-9-19

Beware of Offense
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see:  The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them.  And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.” Matthew 11:2-4

In this world, you cannot prevent being offended, but you can determine how to respond to it.

John the Baptist was imprisoned because he spoke truth to power.  He knew the identity of Jesus.  He identified Jesus as “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29.  In fact, when Mary visited Elizabeth when both were pregnant, the unconscious John in the womb leaped for joy in the presence of the unconscious Jesus in the womb of Mary. Luke 1:41. 

Now, John was in prison and most likely was expecting Jesus to come to his rescue—something Jesus did not do.  Instead, He went about teaching, preaching and working miracles to bring freedom to people.  The imprisoned John was offended that the Son of God, whom he baptized and introduced, would not use His power to set him free.  Therefore, the offended John sent his disciples to Jesus if he was the real Messiah or they should expect another one.

Hmmm. Offense. It can be very powerful.  It had made the man of God, John, to question the identity of the Son of God.  Offense will give you a negative lens to see differently the people you knew so well.  It will make you bitter towards those you love. 

One of the challenges to sustaining relationships is an offense.  We know it is next to impossible to have a genuine relationship without one party offending the other sometimes.  In my culture of origin, we say, “those who are close to you are the ones who will step on your toes.”  Oh, and how painful it is when loved ones offend you!

But, as a follower of Jesus Christ, you are called to love in the face of offense.  How can we do this? Come back tomorrow.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me not to be blinded by an offense.

Daily Devotional 10-8-19

No Longer Strangers   
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Ephesians 2:19

One of the critical questions every soul will ask one day is, “where do I belong?” It is a question of security. In a world of increasing patterns of superficial relationships, people wonder if they could ever have a sure sense of security. Who do I trust? With who can I share my secret? Who will know my shortcomings and still respect me? Who can I let into my world and will not define me by what they discover? These questions and many cases of disappointments have led people to build walls around themselves—oftentimes lonely.  

The good news: In Christ Jesus, you belong.

The blessings of the grace of God are far-reaching than we could imagine. Not only did it save us from sin and death but it also offered us a family to belong. In fact, salvation itself is a package that we ought to unpack so we can experience the abundance of life. In today’s text, Paul articulates one of the many blessings of the grace of God. He implies that grace incorporates us into the kingdom of God. We have become citizens of heaven, part of the commonwealth of Israel. We who were once far off, have now been brought near by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13). You have a new family in Christ Jesus! You have a Father who loved you even when you did not know Him. He adopted you into His family through His Son, Jesus Christ. 

We belong to the same family as the saints of old. Think of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, all the prophets, the disciples, including all the women of renown employed by God. Imagine yourself being in the same family with all these. How good is that! And, not just that. You also belong to the household of God—the Church. Now, that may not sound exciting because of all the imperfections in it, but hey, that’s the body of Christ. He’s still working on us. 

I challenge and invite you to live your life from a place of belonging. You can offer friendship to someone who is alone. You can create an atmosphere for someone to feel loved and belonged. You can be a light in someone’s darkness; a joy in someone’s sadness; healing in someone’s pain.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, open my eyes to see opportunities to make others feel belonged and loved. And, grant me the boldness in offering others the gift of belongingness.

Daily Devotional 10-7-19

Volatile Faithfulness   
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“Hear, O heavens, and listen, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” Isaiah 1:2-3

One of the surprises I had when I came to the U.S., was people’s love for pets, especially dogs.  Dogs are cared for as one would care for children. There are those who specialize in training dogs so they could live well with their owners. There is even obedience school where these pets are sent for training to attend to the instructions of their owners. Personally, one of the traits of dogs I like so much is their loyalty. Dogs know how to stick well with their owners.

In the text above, God makes a painful comparison between Israel’s attitude towards God and an ox’s attitude towards its owner. Whenever we see God get serious like this, it means something is seriously wrong with His people. Isaiah prophesies that the ox and the donkey know their master, and submit to him. They serve their master, and he takes delight in them for their loyalty and service. Think of a cowboy with his favorite horse. The horse serves to the delight of his owner. However, Israel does not know her Maker. She had forsaken her God. 

Israel was chosen but she constantly struggled to live out her choseness. She kept toggling between serving other gods and her true God. She experienced both blessings and curses from God because of their volatile faithfulness. And, God thought the ox and the donkey were more loyal than Israel. This, I must admit, is very painful. But, that was the reality and God would not mince words on that. 

We break God’s heart whenever we choose our own path and reject His ways. Anytime we choose the path of sin and self over righteousness and love we lower ourselves. Imagine God saying, “I created you to live more than that.”  Yes, we do struggle in our thoughts and actions sometimes, but when we make it a habit to live in sin, God frowns on that. Jesus calls us His friends in John 15:15. This is a great privilege! The relationship has shifted from servant and master, to friends. I want to please Jesus in my thoughts and actions because He calls me His friend. I desire to be loyal to Christ not because I am afraid, but because He loved me to the point of dying for my sins.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the grace to live from a place of loyalty to Christ!

Daily Devotional 10-4-19

Spiritual Blessings    
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3

The book of Ephesians is small but mighty and heavy with content. It highlights our position in Christ. Paul opens our eyes to realize the spiritual blessings with which we were blessed when we accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior. Knowing your position in life is crucial. It affects how you relate to yourself, to others, and how you respond to life. It offers new perspective on matters spiritual and natural.

In today’s text, Paul reminds us of our inheritance in Christ Jesus. He emphasizes that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ. Paul is someone who chose and worded his thoughts very carefully. He used the word “blessed.”  The blessing has happened already in Christ Jesus. We have been blessed already! We are not trying to get Jesus to bless us. We are the blessed ones of the Lord.

We don’t live for blessings; we live from blessing!  

We are not supposed to beg God to bless us. He has already given us what we are asking from Him. The message is in the grammar. We are blessed by God. We are supposed to conduct our lives knowing that we have been blessed already. We have to walk, respond to life’s events, relate to people, and see the world from a position of blessing. 

Another dimension of this blessing is that we have no lack in Christ because we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Every. Every. There is no area in our lives where God has not blessed us. Wow! God has already provided everything. Do you have the eyes and faith to see it?

We don’t have to starve in life; God has provided everything essential for our lives in Christ.

Arise. Lose yourself from any shackle. Renew your mind. And, walk from the position of spiritual blessing. 

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, open my eyes to see the blessings you have given me. Grace me to affect situations around me with your blessings in my life.

Daily Devotional 10-3-19

You are on God’s Mind 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, And not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, Yet I will not forget you. See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; Your walls are continually before Me.” Isaiah 49:15-16

Mothers have the gift of nurturing. They have the natural virtues to nurse babies into full-blown persons. Mothers have the extended capacity to be patient with babies through their developmental stages. In struggling families, fathers are most likely to leave the home and the responsibilities of raising the kids would fully be placed on the mother. With all these natural potentials, it would be difficult to conceive the notion that a nursing mother could forget her baby. But I believe it is possible. There have been cases of women abandoning their kids due to challenges and difficulties in life. 

In the text above, God promises to secure His children. Isaiah informs us that God’s compassion, tenderness, and mercies extend beyond the capacity of mothers. He is the God who will never forget us under any circumstances. His mercies endure forever! Even when we depart from Him, His grace will pursue us until we let Him in again. It is assuring to know that no matter how life maybe sometimes, we are always on God’s mind. It is not His character to forget about us. This is encouraging and assuring knowing nothing could make God forget us. Sometimes life may seem God does not care. Some situations may inform you that God cannot be trusted, and He loves other people more than He loves you. But He does care.

The second part of the text tells us why we can trust in God. Our names have been engraved in the palms of God’s hands. Did you get that?! Our names have forever been written in the palm of God’s hand. That means every single day, God sees your name and remembers you. Pause. And think about that for a moment. Did you get the full import of text? God sees your name in His palm and remembers you every day. Imagine how life would be for you if you could forever walk in that consciousness. 

We are secured. We are protected. We are cared for. We are remembered. We are loved. We are thought of. And, this happens on a daily basis because we are His children. 

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me to walk in the consciousness that you are closer to me at all times.  When I feel lonely, help me remember that you have not forgotten me.