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Daily Devotional 1-1-20

My Presence Will Go with You 
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

The Lord replied, “I will personally go with you, Moses, and I will give you rest—everything will be fine for you.” Then Moses said, “If you don’t personally go with us, don’t make us leave this place.  How will anyone know that you look favorably on me—on me and on your people—if you don’t go with us? For your presence among us sets your people and me apart from all other people on the earth.” Exodus 33:14-16

I remember packing a few clothes and books and bidding goodbye to my family, friends, community, and nation. With mixed feelings, I parted company with my culture, favorite meals, wonderful friendships, etc. I was willing to journey into the unknown. I was certain yet unsure; I was peaceful yet anxious. I was glad I had responded to God’s call, yet had many unanswered questions. But, beneath all these layers was a rock of God’s presence with me. And, with that confidence, I journeyed into a foreign land where I had no connection.

God, through the leadership of Moses, had brought the Israelites from Egypt to Sinai.  Then God instructed Moses and the people to leave the place and journey into the Promised Land—Canaan. However, Moses would not just get up and move the people. He wanted to be certain about God’s company. Moses was aware of the wickedness they would have to encounter on their way.  It was a journey into the unknown. In His response to Moses, God said, “I will personally go with you.” 

By experience, most people have already filled their schedules for this year. They have made plans and projections. Some even have contingency plans in case of an eventuality. Some seem to have a pretty firm grip on what lies ahead. However, the truth is we are all journeying into the unknown. When you consider the past year, and the many things that happened, you would be humbled to admit that you cannot absolutely have a full grip on the future. 

Moses, though had seen the miracles of God in Egypt, wanted to be certain of God’s presence in the journey. And, I find so much comfort in God’s response to Moses. He is a God who journeys with us each of the ways. His name is Emmanuel—God with us. We may not know the how, when, where, but we know the Who. And, because we know the Who—God––we can be assured of rest. Throughout this year, you can be certain that your God will never leave nor forsake you.

Life hasn’t been all rosy since I stepped into his nation, but each step and experience has drawn me closer to God, and I am glad for the privilege. And, yes, this year you may not necessarily feel happy every day, but God is certainly with you, through and through.

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, help me to trust you with all my heart, as I journey into this year, with my family and friends.

Daily Devotional 12-31-19

Eternity in Mind 
By Velma Tim

 “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.”  Colossians 3:2

Retirement is something we all intentionally plan for. When someone retires without adequate planning and preparation, they are unable to fully enjoy their retirement years because of insufficiency. Those who plan well for retirement do not do so because they have more than enough, but most often they chose to sacrifice present enjoyment for future benefit.

Scriptures remind us that we are citizens of heaven with limited time on earth, thus as we plan for retirement from our work, we must also plan for eternity, (Philippians 3:20).

Those who fail to plan for retirement have excuses such as bills, family situations, cost of living, etc. These are all valid excuses, but they do not exempt them from the pain of unplanned retirement. Likewise, life is filled with many distractions that constantly want our attention; the cares of this world steal our focus without us realizing. The text we read today tells us to set our eyes on things above not on things in this world. How is that possible with all the distractions? A few suggestions as we strive to live with eternity in mind are:

Intimacy with God. The more we spend time with God, the more He fills us with His thoughts and strengthen us to overcome distractions.

Renew your mind. Romans warns us about conforming to this world and encourages us to renew our minds. This can only happen when we are intentional about letting the scriptures and the Holy Spirit influence the way we live, (Romans 12:2).

Sacrifice. Like a worker sacrifices the present pleasure for a better retirement, when we set our minds on eternity, we will hear the Holy Spirit call to sacrifice for God’s plans and purposes to be accomplished. Each of us will be called by God to make sacrifices as we walk with Him. For Abraham it was his son Isaac; for Mary it was her teenage years; for Paul and the apostles it was a life of imprisonment and even death. Each time God brings us to a place of sacrifice, our obedience to yield will always leave a lasting impact.

As we celebrate in this season of Advent, my prayer is that God will draw each of us into deeper intimacy with him. And, that we will be transformed as we renew our minds, not living by the standards of this world but living lives that are fully surrendered to God; saying yes when we are called to make sacrifices for the kingdom.

 Prayer: Holy Spirit, empower me to live each day with eternity in mind

 Promise: Though you live in the world, you are not of the world.

Daily Devotional 1-3-20

A Prayer for the Journey  

Father, I know that all my life is portioned out for me,
And the changes that are sure to come I do not fear to see;
But I ask You for a present mind intent on pleasing You.
I ask You for a thoughtful love, through constant watching wise,
To meet the glad with joyful smiles, and to wipe the weeping eyes
;And a heart at leisure from itself, to soothe and sympathize.
I would not have the restless will that hurries to and fro,
Seeking for some great thing to do or secret thing to know;
I would be treated as a child, and guided where I go.
Wherever in the world I am, in whatsoever estate,
I have a fellowship with hearts to keep and cultivate;
And a work of lowly love to do for the Lord on whom I wait.
So I ask You for the daily strength, to none that ask denied,
And a mind to blend with outward life while keeping at Thy side;
Content to fill a little space, if You be glorified.
There are briers besetting every path that call for patient care;
There is a cross in every lot, and an earnest need for prayer;
But a lowly heart that leans on You is happy anywhere.
In a service which Your will appoints there are no bonds for me;
For my inmost heart is taught “the truth” that makes Your children “free”
And a life of self-renouncing love is a life of liberty.

–Anna Leticia Waring, 1820-1910.

Daily Devotional 12-30-19

Longing for His Return  
By Velma Tim

 “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:11

Once I took our youth group on a mission trip to Texas, we were going to serve those that had been impacted by the hurricane and have some great adventure. Everyone was excited and filled with much expectation and anticipation. Few of them slept on that journey. Even when someone dozed off it was for just a few minutes, and when they woke up they asked, “Are we almost there?”

When Jesus ascended to heaven, the disciples could not take their gaze off him. They probably wondered, “will we see him again, what’s next, what can we do?” While they still gazed, an angel appeared to them and told them that this Jesus would come again. Immediately, the disciples knew what to do. The longing for their master’s return changed their seeming loss of hope to action and a longing to do all that Christ commanded in preparation for that great return.

Before His death Jesus had taught and talked with them about His death and resurrection, but many of them deserted him when he was crucified. They didn’t believe his promise of resurrection, but now they knew better; they believed the words of their master. He was coming again, so they lived each day with hopes of seeing Him again.

Like the youth on our mission trip, we are reminded that as we long for his return, we do so actively. When Jesus was crucified the disciples went back to their personal business, but after his ascension, they went to the upper room, received power and actively advanced the kingdom of God everywhere they went.

Jesus tells the parable of the ten virgins in Mathew 25:1-13. They were all longing for the groom, but only five had extra oil for unplanned circumstances, the other five were not prepared. In verse 13 he encourages them with these words “Therefore keep watch because you do not know the day or the hour.”

As we long for the return of our king in glory, we are reminded to fill our lamps with oil, stay watchful and get actively involved in advancing the kingdom of God on earth.

PRAYER: Lord as we long for your return keep us alert like the five wise virgins,

PROMISE: For in just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay, (Hebrews 10:37).

Daily Advent Devotional 12-27-19

Love Lives  
By Julie White

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is. May you experience the love of Christ though it is too great to understand fully.  Ephesians 3:17,18

The love of God is total and profound. It covers the breadth of our experience and it reaches out to the whole world. His love continues for the length of our lives.  It rises to the heights of our celebration and our elation. It reaches to the depths of our discouragement, despair, and even death.

But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were yet sinners. Romans 5:8

God could have declared His love in other ways, of course, and He had throughout the pages of the Old Testament and in the lives of His people.  But He sent us Jesus to demonstrate His love for us. Jesus is the living Word and love is His very nature!  The Father loved us so much that He sent His Son to bridge the gap between us. The love that caused Christ to die is the same love that sends the Holy Spirit to live in us and guide us every day.

And the power that raised Christ from the dead is the same power that saved you and is available for you to call on each day.  You can pray for God’s power and love as you need it. God’s love always involves a choice and an action.  It’s commitment and conduct; it’s not just a feeling.

 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins, 1 Peter 4:8.

This verse isn’t telling you how many people to love, but how much to love the people you already know and the people right in front of you; to love truly and faithfully the people God has given you to love.

How well do you display your love in the choices you make and in the actions you take? Love Himself lives in you. Will you follow His example?

Prayer: Lord God, thank you, for it is only by Your grace that I can love others in deed and in truth.

Promise: God loves you and His love never ends. These three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13

Daily Advent Devotional 12-26-19

Christ, Our Peace   
By Julie White

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace. Luke 2:14

The centuries have rolled by, and still, the world longs and looks for the peace that angels sang about on that first Christmas morning.  Even the land of Christ’s birth often seems torn by violence and conflict.

So where is His peace, you ask?  The peace of Christ abides in the hearts and minds of those who have trusted His grace. It comes personally, to one person at a time. Peace with God means that we have reconciled with Him.  There is no more hostility between us, no sin blocking our relationship with Him.  Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord did for us, Romans 5:1.

God’s peace is not the peace of pretending that things are not as they are or the peace of being blind to conflict. It is not found in positive thinking, in the absence of conflict, or in good feelings.  It comes from knowing that God is in control; that our citizenship in Christ’s Kingdom is sure, our destiny is set, and we can have victory over sin.  

We can expect our relationship with Christ to produce peace when we are ‘in sync’ with Him. Daily, intentionally, center your life on God through earnest prayer, scripture reading, scripture meditation, and by enjoying the fellowship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

To fully understand the peace, the contentment, fulfillment, and security that come with Christ’s arrival, you may need to acknowledge Christ’s absence. Look deep inside at what you long for. Where are the vacancies in your life? How do you need to be fed? What in your life remains empty? When you focus on God and His Word, you will find the answers. You (God) will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

Jesus is your peace. He restores you with God. To experience peace on earth, trust Him. Apart from Christ, there is no peace. Jesus gives us peace by giving us Himself. 

PRAYER: Thank you, Lord, that because of Jesus, we may have peace with you, with others, within ourselves, and peace for eternity.

PROMISE: For Christ, Himself has brought peace to us. Ephesians 2:14

Daily Advent Devotional 12-25-19

Rediscovering Christmas  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! Galatians 4:4-5

Imagine you are celebrating your birthday and all your invited friends show up. When you see all of them honoring your invitation, you get excited. Now, it’s time for the gifts, and surprisingly, they all took the gifts and started distributing to each other. None of the gifts were intended for you. You only became an opportunity for people to come together to have fun, enjoy the company, and eat good food. Seriously, I cannot imagine the look of disappointment your face would assume. 

You may be thinking, “I am yet to hear of such a situation in reality.”  Don’t be surprised if I tell you it happens every year around this time. Gradually, we have created another version of Christmas far from the original event. This newer version is no more about the Christ child. It is not God-centered. It is just a happy holiday. We must go back to read the original script to rediscover why we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. 

If you know who He is, you will understand why He came.

We cannot focus on just the manger. It was only the starting point. We ought to transition from his cradle to his cross to understand why He came and why we celebrate. Understanding his coming would make us celebrate with more intentionality, keeping Him at the center. 

Christmastime is an occasion to reflect on the best gift of God to all people—forgiveness through the death and resurrection of The Christ. This, I believe, would make us celebrate with a different kind of excitement in our hearts that flourishes our relationship with God, and enables us to walk in love towards others. In addition, it provides us with the opportunity to renew our faith in God. 

So, my encouragement this Christmastime:

  • Set a time with your family to thank God for His forgiveness;
  • Renew your faith in God as individuals and as a family;
  • Seek for ways by which you could be a star in someone’s sky.

PRAYER: In the excitement of the season, help me keep Jesus at the Center.

Daily Advent Devotional 12-24-19

The Indescribable Gift  
By Rev. Emmanuel Afful

And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. Luke 2:12

Gifts! Gifts!! Gifts!!!

Yes, the idea of gifts has filled the air. I was in Overland Park a month before Thanksgiving and people were already shopping for Christmas. Expectations of children and grandkids are so high.  I recently met two grandparents at a restaurant who had a long list of gifts for which they were shopping. The spirit of giving is so high in December. That is so good!

But as humans, we often forget the best gift of the season.  Jesus is usually “abducted” in the process of the celebration, and we fill the Bethlehem manger with our gifts. Strangely, the usefulness of some of the gifts does not last long. The kids or grandkids outgrow the importance of the gifts and thus, becomes redundant. Yes, we can build memories around those gifts, but they do not journey with us through life. Sometimes we do not even feel the need for some of the most precious gifts we receive.

Jesus Christ, who is the reason for the season, is God’s indescribable precious Gift to the world. He is The Gift who does not just bring us momentary happiness, but produces transformation in our lives. God’s gift of His Son does not have a shelf life; we cannot outlive His significance. 

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15

Paul draws our attention to Christ Jesus as God’s indescribable Gift to humanity. He describes Him as such because of His purpose in the world. He is not just a Gift to a few, but is given to all. He is The Gift that brings life and light to the world. He rescues us from the clutches of sin and death. He is not a gift that we just add to the pile. Instead, He declutters our lives of all sin and the mess and beautifies it with His gracious presence. He’s not a gift that we get to put away and pick up later. He was wrapped in history and civilizations and in the fullness of time––He was revealed for God’s glory. 

The spirit of Christmas is one of giving our lives to God and others. In what ways could you offer your life more to God and others? In what ways could your life, as a gift, bless others including the poor, marginalized, etc.?

PRAYER: Holy Spirit, grant me the grace, that in the spirit of Christmas, I may offer my life to helping others; that I may focus more on giving than receiving.

Daily Advent Devotional 12-23-19

Christ, Our Hope 
By Julie White

Such things were written in the Scripture long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled. Romans 15:4

Hoping is not dreaming.  Hoping doesn’t mean doing nothing. Hope means going about our lives, confident that God will provide the meaning and conclusions. It is a confident heart-longing that God will do what He said He will do.  It is imagination put in a harness of faith. 

The Psalms of Ascent are songs of hope that the Israelite pilgrims sang on their way to Jerusalem each year to celebrate festivals and high holy days in their place of worship.  In this season of advent, we are also a pilgrim people. As we join Mary and Joseph on the road to Bethlehem, we move toward our own high holy day of Christmas.

So, I invite you to ‘sing’ and hope during this season of advent:

Out of the depths, I cry to you, O Lord.
Lord, hear my voice!Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplication!

 If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You,
So that you may be revered.

 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
And in His word I hope;
My soul waits for the Lord
More than those who watch for the morning,Yes, more than those who watch for the morning. Psalm 130

A baby is a sign of hope, of a future, which we cannot guess. A child’s life has infinite possibilities.  This Christmas, may we anticipate and remember the birth of Jesus and be confident that humanity has a future and a hope; a new birth into a living hope and an eternal inheritance. The best is yet to come.

PRAYER: As we wait, may we watch.  And as we watch, may we see the hope of Christ as He came as a baby all those years ago, as He is loving and working now, and as He will come again and make all things new.

Promise: These two things cannot change: God cannot lie when He makes a promise, and He cannot lie when He makes an oath.  These things encourage us…they give us the strength to hold on to the hope we have been given.  We save this hope as an anchor for our soul—sure and strong. Hebrews 6:18-19