Daily Devotional 2-7-20

The Heart of a Child 
By Velma Tim

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Mark 10:15-16

In both the Old and New Testaments the term “kingdom” is understood as dynamic in nature and refers primarily to the rule or reign of a king. This is very significant, because Jesus tells his followers that until they receive His kingdom like children, they will not enter it. What is it about the character of children that we can emulate as we pursue God’s kingdom and reign on earth?

  • Children are very tender at heart, forgiving, and follow instructions (sometimes they struggle with the latter).
  • Their parents shape them. Most of the time, their outcome in life is based on what their parents, school, church, and culture teach them. In Proverbs 22:6, God encourages us to train children in the way they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from the truth. This means we must allow God and His word to shape and mold us. 
  • Children have complete trust in their parents. Kids trust their parents; they know their parents will provide safety and security for them. A child will easily take a risk and try new things when they have parental support. As adults, God calls us to trust Him. This means having child-like faith and confidence. We often love to analyze everything and only follow God’s instructions when it makes sense to us. Children just trust and believe in their parents.
  • Children are dependent on parents. A child-like dependence does not lead to enslavement; rather, it empowers them to be all they were made to be. As children of God, he wants us to rely on him, depend on his leadership, protection, provision, etc. We can rely on him in every situation and he will not fail us.

When we experience God’s kingdom and reign in our lives, we experience His own kind of life. We enter His shalom and this happens as we cultivate a child-like heart.

PRAYER: Lord, give me a child-like heart.  Help me not to become too grown up before you.  Amen.

Daily Devotional 2-6-20

Don’t Worry About the Stones
By Velma Tim

“When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb? “But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. Mark 16:1-4

Life is filled with many obstacles. Some are big, some are small, but they are everywhere along our journey and we must remove or overcome them in order to reach our destination.

In our text, these women who genuinely loved their master were on their way to anoint Jesus. They left their homes knowing there was a rock over the tomb they could not roll away, but they still embarked on the journey. Their knowledge about the rock did not stop them; rather, in faith and love, they journeyed to the tomb. Miraculously, they didn’t have to worry about the rock because it was rolled away before they got there. Though their master had resurrected, they were able to go into the tomb and see his clothing without any obstacles. Their love for Jesus and their devotion to him influenced them to start a journey not knowing how the obstacle would be taken care of.  

Sometimes the things God instructs us to do will not be easy to accomplish. The enemy will always try to place obstacles in our path. Like these women, we have to keep our focus and take steps toward the goal. We cannot sit and wait for an obstacle to be removed before stepping out in faith. Christ invites us into obedience even when we do not have all the answers.

As you start your day today, do not allow any obstacle to stop you from embarking on a journey, rather, let it motivate you. Behind the stone is something precious that we are looking for and it is worth all the sacrifice. Therefore, do not worry about the stone, because as you take steps in faith God will send his angel to roll it away.

PRAYER: Lord, give me the grace to take steps towards your promises knowing that you would meet me on the way.

Daily Devotional 2-5-20

Made for Radiance 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“You are the salt of the earth…Matthew 5:13

The greatest and most obvious quality of salt is that it lends flavor to food. Food without salt is sadly insipid, and even, a sickening thing. That is why most restaurants have saltshakers so that customers can enjoy the level of saltiness they so desire.  As salt is to food, so is Christianity to life. Christianity lends flavor to life. The unfortunate thing is that so often people have connected Christianity with the very opposite, with the notion that Christianity takes the flavor out of life. 

We need to discover the lost radiance and beauty of the Christian faith. In a worrying world, the Christian should be the person who remains serene. In a depressing world, the Christian should be filled with joy in abundance. The follower of Jesus should be an igniter of joy and radiance. 

When I was growing up in the faith, I became so spiritually minded that I did not know how to play. I was always serious. I loved to seclude, pray, study the word of God, and listen to my favorite preachers. These helped me to grow some “spiritual muscles.” They were extremely beneficial to the spiritual formation that prepared me for this vocation. But, on the flip side, I could not hold the balance between practicing those spiritual disciplines and playing. I usually forgot that it was okay to be a good Christian and still have fun. Some of us grew up in Christian traditions and homes where strict Christian disciplines were enforced. We were taught to be quiet during worship; as such, we could not express the joy we felt in our hearts. Something beautiful in us was suppressed. Sometimes, we want sing out, raise our hands as a respond to a song in worship, but we suppress it because we do not want people to see us as weird.

Reading about the life of Jesus reveals how often people would surround and follow Him, including kids. There was something electrifying and inviting about Him. Jesus knew how to relate to everyone on the street. The sinners loved Him; the Pharisees liked talking with Him (often trying to have an occasion to accuse Him). Men and women, elderly and young, the greatest and least, were all fascinated about Him. Jesus was a mover and shaker. He knew how to seclude as well as engage. The early church had such Christian flavor in the surrounding culture.  They were socially and religiously a minority, yet they lived out their saltiness. No wonder the Lord kept adding to their numbers (Acts 2:42-47).

So, let loose the joy, radiance, energy, laughter, beautiful expressions, and warmth that is in you.

PRAYER: May I live out and “infect” others with the radiant beauty of your presence in my life. 

Daily Devotional 2-4-20

Made for Preservation   
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“You are the salt of the earth…Matthew 5:13

Salting is the preservation of food with dry edible salt. It is related to pickling in general and more specifically to brining, and is one form of curing. Salt has been used as a preservative since ancient times to protect food against bacteria, mold, and spoiling. However, because of the emergence of refrigeration and other methods of food preservation, the need for salt as a preservative has decreased. 

Plutarch, a philosopher, has an interesting way of commenting on the significance of salt. He says that “meat is a dead body and part of a dead body, and will, if left to itself, go bad; but, salt preserves it and keeps it fresh and is therefore like a new soul inserted into a dead body.” Interesting. So then, salt preserves from corruption. Therefore, if the Christian is to be the salt of the earth, he must have a certain antiseptic influence on life. 

The world has no power on its own to prevent decadence. This is more of a reason for Christians to engage in the public spaces with their antiseptic influence through the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Christian does not shy away from but shines and lives out the values and virtues of Christ, it prevents others from going down a certain wrong path. I was in a meeting recently where a colleague shared an interesting story. She was invited to a party, and when she got there, the party had already started and people were having fun drinking, and doing all sorts of things.  Immediately the people dropped their bottles, and it almost felt the party was over. Her presence was prophetic. It challenged the party fellows to evaluate their conduct. What a way to be a living testimony, when your life is so filled by God that you don’t even have to speak, but your mere presence commands light and darkness varnishes!    

If you are truly living out the Christian life, people around you cannot tell certain soiled tales.  Christ invites us to be the cleansing antiseptic in society. Our presence should defeat corruption and make it easier for people to do good.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, give me the grace, that my presence in people’s lives would enable them to choose light over darkness.

Daily Devotional 2-3-20

Made for Purity  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“You are the salt of the earth…Matthew 5:13

Jesus used everyday images, elements, and situations to drive home important lessons about the kingdom of God. Parables are typical examples. Today’s text captures Jesus’ usage of salt to teach about the life and influence of His followers in their surrounding culture.

Salt is common because it is important. It has a wide range of usage. From domestic applications, to industries, to science labs, it has proven to be an indispensable compound. In the then Greek world, salt was so highly valued they called it divine.  In fact, the Romans had a saying that, “there is nothing more useful than sun and salt.” In Jesus’ time, salt was related in people’s minds in three different ways (we would be exploring them this week).

Salt, to the Romans, was connected with purity. They said it was the purest of all things because it was made from the sea and sun. It was indeed, the primitive of all offerings to the gods. So then, the Jews hearing this teaching from Jesus made a connection with purity. Therefore, Jesus’ call to His followers to be the salt of the earth is an invitation to be examples of purity. 

One of the characteristics of our world today is the lowering of standards. Standards of honesty, diligence, morals, conscientiousness, faithfulness, all tend to be lowered. It almost looks like those who aspire to keep high standards are seen as harsh and cold. Jesus’ statement is a call to His followers––who belong to the kingdom of God––to be examples of purity in speech, conduct, and thought. We live in a world where deliberate incentive to sin is rampant and displayed. The media has become the chief source of enticement and entanglement. In such a situation, the Christian has the tendency to withdraw from engaging with the world, in order to keep their purity. But, Jesus does not call us to pull away into seclusion. He, rather, encourages us through James to keep ourselves, “unstained from the world,” as we shine His light and love.   

Christians even have a better motivation to be the salt of the world: Jesus gave up His life for you. What would you give up to keep your purity?

PRAYER: When I seem to be overwhelmed by temptations and lures into sin, help me, Holy Spirit, to keep my saltiness (purity).

Daily Devotional 1-31-20

It Costs to Love   
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.  Matthew 16:24

Love is the supreme ethic of the Christian faith!  From Genesis, in the Old Testament, through Revelation, in The New Testament, God plays out one song and one message—Love

The African culture in which I grew up did not frequently use the word “love.” We saw the actions of love but did not necessarily hear it. It was more of walking the talk. Then, I flew across the big pond into this nation and one of the surprises I still experience is how frequently we use the word love. “We love foods, sports, celebrities, puppies, and our moms. We love movies, nature, long walks on the beach, and everything in between. We are a culture, it seems, that is in love with being in love,” (Michael Kelley).  And, it seems, to say “love” is the defining ethic of the followers of Christ carries no weight. It may seem easy to love after the manner of the world, but Christian love costs.

In the texts above, Jesus gives the three conditions to be His follower: self-denial, carrying of one’s cross, and daily following Jesus. He then gives the identifying mark of His followers—Love. What Jesus is saying to us in these two scriptures is—it will cost us to love the way He loves. It will take self-denial, suffering (carrying your cross) and following Jesus in order to love God and people with the God-kind of love. The God-kind of love is what the world is in dire need of.   

The God-kind of love is sacrificial, demonstrative and takes initiative. It is the highest and best form of love. It gives without thinking of receiving. What exactly are the fruits or markers of this divine love? Paul takes time to list them for us: “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails,” (1 Cor.13:4-8).

So, let me ask you: Is your love the God-kind? Do you see any of these fruits in the love you profess to have for your neighbor?

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me cultivate and grow in your kind of love.

Daily Devotional 1-30-20

Give Me Eyes to See 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. John 9:1

God is all-knowing. He knows our ins and outs. He holds a solid knowledge of our past, present, and future. God has an all-encompassing knowledge about each person. When God looks at you, He sees beyond your physicality, and even beyond your circumstance or need. But, He also sees what you could become. 

The key to understanding the text lies in the word saw.” In the Greek language to see means to perceive, discern, discover, inspect, and notice.  It also means to notice something and ascertain what must be done about it. When we import this meaning into the text, it could read, “Now as Jesus passed by, He discovered and perceived the circumstance of a man born blind and knew exactly what to do about it.” 

Friends, it appears seeing goes beyond just beholding something with your physical eyes. This kind of seeing I am talking about involves the heart. Seeing with your heart is different from seeing with your physical eyes. The physical eye may see an immigrant and/or a person of color, someone with a disability, someone with a chronic health challenge, someone with a social stigma, but the spirit-filled heart would see a person with dignity and destiny. The physical eye may see the poor, homeless, an addict, broken, disenfranchised, etc., but the heart may see a person with great potential for something. The physical eyes may also see a rich, popular person but the spirit-filled heart may see a person in need of some sort. The apostle Paul, confirms this when he said, “So from now on we regard no one from a human point of view [according to worldly standards and values], (2 Corinthians 5:16). 

In the process to select a replacement for King Saul, Samuel, the prophet, nearly made a mistake when he saw the muscles of David’s big brother and thought he might be the chosen one. God intervened and said, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I recognize that this may be a stretch for some people because we are accustomed to seeing just with our eyes, but I believe if we are going to love all people as Jesus loves them, then we need to see with our spirit-filled hearts. 

Look at Jesus on the cross, and you would see the value of each person!

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the grace to see with my heart to discover what you perceive in each person.

Daily Devotional 1-29-20

The Blessed Life  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the [a]earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.  Matthew 5:3-12

The Sermon on the Mount is popular among Christians. Scholars have given it many names such as Magna Carta of the Kingdom, and The Compendium of the Christ’s Doctrines (Barclay).  Jesus began His public teaching with the declaratory statements (beatitudes) that describe the Christian life. Each of the beatitudes begins with the word “blessed.” In the then Greek world, “blessed” was used to describe the life and condition of the gods. It was a life of perfect happiness and joy; thus, in Christ, there is a godlike joy. 

The presence of the Holy Spirit makes a person blessed. The Holy Spirit comes with such beauty, glory, aura, and richness that is indescribable. The blessing of God satisfies; it makes the Christian content. It makes one joyous in the face of adversity; it causes the Christian to remain resolute and unshaken in uncertainty. It is independent of material possessions. It makes the Christian have nothing, yet possesses everything. It causes the Christian to triumph in the midst of insecurities. The beatitudes speak of the blessing which sorrow, pain, loss, grief are powerless to touch. It is a joy that shines through tears, and which nothing in life or death can take away.

Christ did not come to curse, but to bless. And, for all who follow Him, for all who receive Him as their Lord, Master, and Savior, there is a certain life that is reserved for them—a life of joyous thrill and radiant gladness. In the face of the beatitudes, a gloom-encompassed Christianity is unthinkable (Barclay).  

PRAYER: Dear Lord, may my life be a testimony of your blessings. And, lead me to touch others’ lives with your blessing.

Daily Devotional 1-28-20

In Touch With Him
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

 1 Thessalonians 5:17 “be unceasing and persistent in prayer.” (AMP)

Communication has become so easy in modern times! The days of writing long letters with ink on paper are long gone. And, why should we continue to do that when we can just send an email and the recipient gets it within seconds. I’m glad the old telephone with its wired connections is no more. With a few touches on our phones, we can communicate with people around the world.  Indeed, communication has become so easy and frequent. But, can we say the same about our communication with God?

God made us for fellowship and communion. He desires to engage with each person on a daily basis. Imagine living with your father and for three days there has not been any communication. Can you stand the silence and the uneasiness? You can begin to figure out what the problem is, right? Yet, some of us could go on for days without pausing to have fellowship with Him. God is constantly inviting us, but we either lack the ability to recognize His invitation, or too busy to pay attention.  

Prayer is every believer’s powerful lifestyle:  

  • Prayer plugs us to God, who is our source. It is more for us than it is for God. It expresses our dependence on Him.
  • Prayer aligns us with God.
  • By prayer, we are able to overcome the tendencies that distract us from our providential path. We get our lenses cleansed through prayer so that we are able to see as God sees.
  • Prayer will remove all the layers of debris on your soul and release you to love as God would.

For these and many other reasons, Paul encourages to pray without ceasing.

Praying is a spiritual discipline, and that is the reason for the lack of desire to practice it. Your flesh will keep fighting your effective prayer life, but we have to persist in taking those baby steps and growing in it. It will not happen naturally. It takes intentionality and the enablement of the Holy Spirit.

PRAYER: Dear God, Help me to make it a practice to stay plugged into You at all times.Grant me a yearning for You that drives me to connect with you and allow You to lead me in everything that I do. Amen.