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Daily Devotional 1-15-20

Temptation: Compromise 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’   Matthew 4:8-10

This temptation is so real, so frequent, and so practical. I am talking about the temptation to compromise. Sometimes we want to please people; sometimes we desire to go with the crowd, against God’s word. 

Satan was inviting Jesus into terms with him. It was the temptation to come into terms with the world, instead of uncompromisingly presenting God’s demands to it. It was the temptation to try advance by retreating, to try to change the world by becoming like the world. But, Jesus would not bow down to Satan and the world. Christianity cannot stoop to the level of the world; rather it must lift the world to its own standards and level. Nothing less will do.

Jesus never compromised in his teachings and sermons. Some of His teachings were difficult to hear and accept, though. He did not applaud the sinner for their waywardness; instead he invited them to a higher way of life. There were times people walked out on Him, and that was okay.  He never ran after them, begging them to follow Him. He held God’s standards so that people may live their best life. 

We live in a culture that has compromised many of its great and beautiful values, all in the name of modernity. As a result, social problems are compounding, families are breaking down, and faith matters are taken out of the public spaces. Common decency and civility are becoming endangered species. True love has become expensive and rare. The common good is being lost.

To compromise your faith as a Christian is to have other gods above the True God; it means there is a watered-down view of God. It also means to place one’s interests above God. 

Is there something that is more important to you than God is? What is the place of the word of God in your life? Do you fear people more than you fear God? Are you likely to follow God’s word or follow values that are even contrary to God’s word?

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the grace not to compromise my convictions in God.

Daily Devotional 1-14-20

Temptation: Seeking the Spectacular  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ” Matthew 4:5-7

Have you challenged yourself to achieve certain goals because you felt capable and never used that wisdom, then you failed in the end? 

Satan took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, and asked Him to throw Himself down, for the angels of the Lord will catch Him midair so that He would not hit the ground (Psalm 91:11-12).  Satan knows the scriptures and he used it well to tempt Jesus. He was tempting Jesus to create a sensation and a spectacle, but Jesus was too smart to build His movement on sensations. Any ministry built on sensations and shows is foreordained to fail. 

“You shall not tempt the LORD your God” means there is no good seeing how far you can go with God; there is no good in putting yourself deliberately in a threatening situation––doing it quite recklessly and needlessly––then expecting God to rescue you from it. God expects a person to take a risk in order to be true to him, but He does not expect a person to take risks to enhance his/her own prestige. Gifts are never meant to promote a person’s reputation. 

Faith that is dependent solely on the spectacular, is no faith at all. Jesus did not introduce the kingdom of God on the spectacular. Instead, the word of God was the foundation of all that Jesus did. He said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away,” (Matthew 24:35). Let the word of God and the wisdom from it become the foundation of your faith. 

PRAYER: Help me build my faith not on the sensations from the world, but on the sure foundation of your word.

Daily Devotional 1-13-20

Temptation: Materialism and Selfishness   
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” Matthew 4:4

Temptations are all around us. From morning to nighttime, we face temptations of all sorts.  These are the invitations, baits, lures the enemy places in our path so we make choices of selfishness contrary to what God expects of us. 

After His baptism, the Holy Spirit led Him into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. He fasted forty days and nights, and undoubtedly, He became hungry. Then the enemy showed up. He asked Jesus to turn the stones into bread since He was hungry. 

Satan, showed up at the right time––when Jesus was hungry––and tempted him in an area of physical need. You see, Satan knows when to tempt you. He knows your vulnerabilities and pushes his wedges in at the right time. He usually makes suggestions to satisfy a particular need.  But, those needs will never be met. He tempted Jesus to meet a physical and material need. Jesus’ response indicates that true satisfaction comes not from materialism, but a dependence on the word of God. True and lasting satisfaction is experienced deep down the soul, and we cannot use materials to meet those longings. Only Christ and His word bring rest and peace to us. Instead of trying to meet our spiritual needs with materials and entertainments, Paul encourages us, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom…” (Colossian 3:16).

Again, Satan lured Jesus to use His power selfishly. God has given us gifts and other divine endowments. And, we can ask two questions: what can I make for myself out of this gift, or what can I do for others with this gift? The more gifted you are, the more temptations you face. Most gifted people who fall to this temptation are driven and dictated by their gifts. They glorify themselves with the use of God’s gift. Once again, Jesus shows a way out of this temptation by saying we should rather let the word of God be our guide, not the gift. He calls us to depend on God’s word not gifts. 

So, let me ask you two questions: to what goal do you use God’s gifts in your life? Where is the place of God’s word in your life?

PRAYER: May I use all your gifts in me to honor and glorify you.

Daily Devotional 1-10-20

Who is this Jesus? 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Matthew 3:16-17

A senior pastor asked his associate to preach on a particular Sunday because he would be out of town. But, on that Sunday, he did not travel. He disguised himself as a poor man and went to his church. No one recognized him, and he was treated with scorn. At the end of the service, he revealed himself to the shame and shock of the members.

God wanted the Jews to have a very clear knowledge of who the man Jesus was. He didn’t want them to take Him to be a new teacher and a prophet in town. He did not want any confusion of identities about Jesus and John. Therefore, as Jesus came out of the water, the Holy Spirit settled on Him in a bodily form of a dove. And the Father spoke from heaven: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

When we see Jesus as He is, we will worship Him as we ought!

The Jews only knew prophets and teachers of the law. The then world had philosophers and sages whose thought, ideas and wisdom shaped life and culture, just like today. Therefore, with the confirmation from heaven, the Father distinguished Jesus from all other men. And, indeed, He is above all (John 1:1, 10:10).  No one equals Him.

In this statement is the certainty that Jesus was indeed the Chosen One—the Son of God. If He was the Son of God then the way in front of Him was the way of the cross. He was the king whose throne was the cross. He was the king who came to identify with His people.

If we are certain about Jesus, we will take His words seriously. If we believe Jesus reveals the Father to humanity, we will do well to follow Him wholeheartedly. If we know He is the Love of the Father to us, we will not love other things more than Him.

Who is Jesus to you?

PRAYER: Forgive me, Lord, for holding a rather casual view about you sometimes. Help me, with a fresh revelation, to walk in ways that reflect my allegiance to you.

Daily Devotional 1-9-20

Changed by His Presence 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:11

Sometimes what keeps me going in ministry are the stories about the work of grace in the life of the people I serve and minister to. I get emails, text messages, written notes, and cards from people who are experiencing the presence of God in their lives with the resultant effect of change in heart. There is one gentleman who always encourages and stirs me up unto service by his desire to grow and know more of God. He is constantly sharing with me about his growth and challenges as he walks with God. At a small group, one lady also blew my mind with her experience in forgiveness. These stories inform me that Christian transformation is real. And, these transformations are the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

In his preaching, John the Baptist, tells his hearers of two kinds of baptism: water baptism unto repentance, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire by which we receive the grace to walk in obedience to God. 

As Jesus was to the twelve disciples so is the Holy Spirit to Christians today.

The fire in this kind of baptism is symbolic. Fire burns away trash and waste materials. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts, He consumes all the “stuff” that hinders us from living to please God. He cleanses and purges our hearts to new affections and appetites.  The Holy Spirit also refines our character, just as fire is used to refine gold and other precious metals. Fire produces heat energy that is used in various ways. In the same way, the Holy Spirit enables us with divine energy to do things we cannot do with our natural abilities. He graces us to work and walk in ways beyond our natural competencies through the gifts He gives.

Friends, behavior is very important to our belief. Faith in Christ is the way into God, and obedience (shown through behavior) is the walk with God. We cannot profess virtue and practice vice. The light of Christ in us must shine in the way we think, talk, and act. The presence of Jesus in us makes changes that are beautiful!

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, forgive me of the times I chose my own path of sin. Create in me a desire to love and please you in all that I do.

Daily Devotional 1-8-20

God Breaks the Silence 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand! Matthew 3:1-2

Who can stand silence? It is not a welcoming posture in relationships. When I first came to this nation, I was told that Americans don’t like silence. And it is quite true, as I have come to observe. Silence in relationships can be devastating. Often times, it is a signal that people are shutting down, there is nothing else to say, there’s a lack of interest. Could you withstand silence in your family for three days? I don’t think so! But, that was the situation of the Jews and their relationship with God.

For four hundred years, the Jews did not hear a word from God. There were no prophets. There were no words of encouragement or admonitions from God who used to speak with their forbearers. They worshipped in the temple and studied the Torah in the synagogues, but God was not speaking in new ways. They had no encounters with the divine. Some have called that period the Dark Ages. They were used to stale religious practices. They went through ceremonial rituals that offered no life, but that was okay for them because they knew nothing else. They were born and raised in a stale religion.

But, the long silence was finally broken! God visited His people again through the prophet, John the Baptist. For those Jews, it was a lifetime opportunity hearing the words of God directly from a prophet. Imagine the excitement and anticipation. No wonder people rushed to see and hear this man of God. The long period of silence and darkness was broken, and out of John’s mouth came these words of life, light and love: “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  They took his words serious and many were baptized. 

Repentance, to them, was a gracious word full of light. And it should be for us, too. It is an invitation from God to forsake darkness and embrace His light and love. It is not a condemnation; it sets people before God. Repentance does not only expose our sins, but more so takes us to a higher life in God. The kingdom of God is here, and the only way to experience it is repentance and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ as the savior.

Out of the silence came the words of hope, light, and love for all of humanity.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, open my eyes to see the areas in my life that I need to surrender to you.  Attend to my heart and speak a word of life to my soul.

Daily Devotional 1-7-20

Reset: Community  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these. Mark 12:31

What is the essence of love if it is held in privacy? What is the use of a light hidden under a bushel and not placed on a table to shine for people? 

In the Christian worldview, love has three objects: God, Neighbor, and Self.  However, too often, our love is misdirected and mostly centered on ourselves. Jesus even takes this command to love a neighbor to another level when He said, “love one another as I have loved you,” John 15:12. This is radically different in that the love of God becomes the basis, the motivation, and the driver of our love for others. 

Practically, this involves treating people with respect and concern to put the interest of others on a level with our own. Paul writes, “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others, (Philippians 2:4). This is crucial because our love for God is demonstrated by our love for one another. 

Don’t get so spiritually high to the point where you lose touch with the people around you!  

Love for a neighbor is a decision we make every day. It involves doing something tangible and specific. It is action-oriented. Get yourself out there (whatever “there” means for you) and bless someone with the Christ in you. The love of God is too great and overflowing for you to privatize it. Take time to think about somebody and bless them in specific ways. Look to your family, check your circle of friends, scan through your neighborhood, identify someone in need and show some love. Loving your neighbor involves crossing the line to the other side––to that person who hates you, the person who gets on your nerves, or the person who lied and stabbed you at the back. 

Love for a neighbor would also invite us to speak to them the truth in love whenever necessary.  Sometimes hearing the truth is like taking a bitter pill to heal from an ailment. The truth can be painful sometimes, but when it is spoken with love and grace it enables receptivity and healing.  Culturally, we shy away from drawing people’s attention to something that is personal, but what is love if it looks on unconcern or afraid until a life is destroyed or ruined?

“Faith is personal but never private.” —E Stanley Jones

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the wisdom in connecting with others, the boldness to speak the truth in love and grace, and the desire to love others intentionally.

Daily Devotional 1-6-20

Reset: Relationship with God  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’  This is the first and great commandment. Matthew 22:37

The Israelites were marked as distinct people, because of their relationship with the one and true God—Yahweh. Christians, throughout history, have neither been marked by how much they know of their God nor by their religious activities. Instead, they have been distinguished by how much they love God. The Jesus movement did not become a nine-day wonder, but survived the centuries, partly because of faithful adherents who loved their savior enough to even die on His account. 

God had stepped out of eternity into time, and for the first time, people could know God through Jesus Christ. The religious leaders represented a religion, but Jesus was and is the Door into the Kingdom of God. Therefore, the Pharisees and Sadducees often had problems with Jesus’ teachings. They inquired of Jesus about the greatest commandment in the law and Jesus drew their attention to the command to love God.

Christians today would be known by their love for God because love is the way of life in the kingdom of God.  

The love of God is the rule of life. It is the prescription that would save and heal lives. Friends, the reality is that God loves all equally, because Christ died for all. But, the truth is that we love God differently. The depth, height and weight of our love for God differs from person to person.  God, through Christ, has given Himself fully to us all at once. But, we love God piece by piece.  We grow in the measure of our love for God. 

Therefore, I encourage you as you have started a new year, to reset your love for God. Let the love of God be the motivation for all your thoughts and actions. Christ invites us to respond to God’s love in the realities of our practical life. Attend worship services and small groups, pray and study the bible, shun evil and sin, and pursue holiness and peace, because you love God. 

For you, a child of God, love should not just be a commandment, but also a desirement.

We should desire to love God because He first loved us. Would your life this year be marked by your love for God?

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, as I begin a new year, help me make my love for God the topmost priority in my life. Let this become the foundation of my life.

Daily Devotional 1-2-20

Pressing into the Future 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Philippians 3:13-14

Our human life is three-dimensional: the past, the present, and the future. Interestingly, these three are always working together somehow, in the order they occur. The past influences the present, which also influences the future. 

Now, at the beginning of a new year, most people dream of goals and accomplishments. These goals could be small or huge, depending on the person and their present stage in life. They could meet physical, spiritual, emotional, social, financial need, etc. I have a simple goal on my list: to develop a workout routine to enhance and improve my physical fitness. I am pumped for this, will not let anything stop me! It is a reality in life that every dream or goal comes with a challenge. These challenges could emanate from many sources including a person’s past. And, some people are not able to break free from the past to embrace the future. 

Paul, recognizing the glorious heavenly prize in his future, forgot about his past and pressed into the future. I do not believe he lost memory of the past. He just did not allow it to impede his progress into the future. He used his memory of the past to push his life forward. You, too, can experience new blessings in life as you position yourself in Christ without attachments to the past.

He broke free in order to enter the promised future. 

God, through Christ Jesus, is inviting us to the heavenly prize in the future, therefore:

  • Don’t allow the demons in your past,
  • Don’t allow the disappointments in your past,
  • Don’t allow the rejections in your past,
  • Don’t allow the failures and sufferings in your past,
  • Don’t allow the victories and celebrations in your past,
  • Don’t allow breakthroughs in your past, etc., prevent you from receiving the heavenly prize through Christ Jesus.

You can always have a goal that meets your spiritual needs, among others, no matter the stage at which you are in life. 

PRAYER: So, Holy Spirit, as I celebrate the glories and moan over the struggles of the past, help me to break free in order to receive the future you have in store for me. Amen.